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Missouri duck boat captain indicted in connection with sinking that killed 17 passengers

NBC News logo NBC News 2018-11-08 David K. Li
a man in a boat on a body of water: Stretch Duck 7 salvage © Lora Ratliff Stretch Duck 7 salvage

A federal grand jury indicted the duck boat captain whose vessel capsized near Branson, Missouri, killing 17 passengers, federal authorities announced on Thursday.

Kenneth Scott McKee, a 51-year-old resident of Verona, Missouri, was charged with 17 counts of misconduct, negligence or inattention to duty by a ship's officer, officials said.

"Our entire community was shocked and saddened by the loss of 17 lives in this tragic event last summer," U.S. Attorney for Western District of Missouri Tim Garrison said.

"Today's indictment alleges that the misconduct, negligence and inattention to duty by the ship's captain caused or contributed to the loss of those lives," said Garrison.

The tragedy unfolded on July 19 when a Ride the Ducks amphibious boat, dubbed "Stretch Duck 7," ventured on to Table Rock Lake during a thunderstorm with 60 mph winds.

The U.S. Coast Guard found probable cause that the accident "resulted from the misconduct, negligence, or inattention to the duties" by McKee, according to an August court filing.

McKee operated the boat "in violation of the conditions and limitations specified in the vessel's United States Coast Guard issued Certificate of Inspection," according to the indictment.

And specifically, the captain also "failed to properly assess the nature of the severe weather," the indictment said.

Nine of the victims were from the same family, including three children under 9 years old. Two other children were among those killed.

Tia Coleman, mom of the three kids, also lost her husband in that accident. She thanked prosecutors on Thursday.

"While nothing can ever ease the grief in my heart, I am grateful that the U.S. Attorney's Office is fighting for justice for my family, and the other victims, and is committed to holding fully accountable all those responsible for this tragedy," Coleman said in a statement.

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