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Missouri tragedy puts spotlight on danger of amphibious tour buses

In 1999, a similar duck boat accident in Arkansas killed 13 people.

A Ride The Ducks World War II DUKW boat is seen at Ride The Ducks on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. CREDIT:  Michael Thomas/Getty Images
A Ride The Ducks World War II DUKW boat is seen at Ride The Ducks on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. CREDIT: Michael Thomas/Getty Images

Four people were being treated at a hospital in Missouri on Saturday, after a tourist boat they were in capsized on a lake near Branson, Missouri, killing 17 people and injuring seven.

Two adults and two children remained at the Cox Medical Center Branson, according to ABC News. They were among 31 people, including two crew members, on the duck boat when it plunged into deep water in Table Rock Lake near Branson Thursday evening as severe thunderstorms struck the area. Duck boats are amphibious tour buses that travel on road and in water.

Nine people from one family — the Colemans, who were vacationing in Branson from Indiana — were among the 17 killed in the disaster. Two members of the family survived the accident and were taken to the hospital for treatment.

Investigators have suggested that the accident was caused by thunderstorms and high winds. The boat sank in 40 feet of water and then rolled on its wheels into a deeper area with 80 feet of water.

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Duck boats are known for being susceptible to sinking quickly once they begin to take on water. The fixed steel and vinyl roofs of the vehicles make it difficult to escape. Life vests are not viewed as helpful because as a person with a life vest floats upward, they find themselves trapped against either the canopy or a capsized hull, according to a Buzzfeed report.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) sent investigators to the site. The agency urged witnesses to share any videos or photos to help with the investigation.

A preliminary report is expected to be released on accident in about a month. The NTSB then expects to complete its full investigation by this time next year, according to CNN.

The duck boat was operated by the Ride the Ducks, a company owned by Ripley Entertainment. On its website, Ride the Ducks said it “will be closed for business while we support the investigation.”

Ripley Entertainment spokeswoman Suzanne Smagala told the Associated Press that this was the Branson company’s first accident in more than 40 years of operation.

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In 2010, a Ride the Ducks boat was struck by a tugboat on the Delaware River in Philadelphia, causing the duck boat to sink. Two of the 35 passengers on board the Philadelphia duck boat were killed in the accident.

Thirteen people were killed when a duck boat with 21 people on board sank in Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 1999. The boat plunged 60 feet to the bottom of the lake.

The NTSB determined the cause of the Arkansas accident to be inadequate maintenance of the vessel, which was built by the U.S. Army in 1944.