After a federal judge dropped charges against them, a local prosecutor has filed 63 charges against the boat captain, general manager, and the manager on duty the day of the accident that killed 17

By Glenn Garner
July 17, 2021 04:29 PM
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Michael Thomas/Getty

A local prosecutor has filed 63 felony charges against three employees of a Missouri duck boat company following a July 2018 accident that killed 17 people.

A Stone County prosecutor has charged boat captain Kenneth Scott McKee, general manager Curtis Lanham, and the manager who was on duty the day of the accident, Charles Baltzell, the Associated Press reported. The announcement comes months after a federal judge initially dropped charges against the men, determining that federal prosecutors had no jurisdiction.

A total of 31 passengers were on the Ride the Ducks attraction on Table Rock Lake, just outside of Branson, when a storm caused the boat to capsize and sink. Of the 17 people killed, five were children.

McKee, 54, is facing 29 charges, including 17 charges of first-degree involuntary manslaughter, as well as 12 charges of endangering child passengers. The child-endangerment charges carry the most punishment, potentially resulting in 10 to 30 years in prison for the children who died. He also faces up to seven years for endangerment charges involving the children that survived.

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A park ranger patrols an area on Friday, near where a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake

A statement from Stone County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Selby and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt alleges that McKee "failed to exercise his duties as a licensed Captain by entering the lake during a severe thunderstorm warning, and failed to follow policies and training by not having passengers affix flotation devices as the boat took on water."

"We are reviewing the charges, anticipate not guilty pleas will be entered, and will continue to vigorously represent Mr. McKee," attorneys J.R. Hobbs and Marilyn B. Keller said in a statement to CNN.

Baltzell, 79, and Lanham, 39, have each been charged with 17 counts of first-degree involuntary manslaughter, as they allegedly "failed to communicate weather conditions and cease operations during a severe thunderstorm warning."

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Tia Coleman, an Indianapolis woman who lost nine members of her family in the accident, including her husband and three children, said that her "prayers had been answered" with the charges.

"I'm so hopeful that we are one major step closer to justice for all those that perished, and to preventing that what happened to them from ever happening again," Coleman said in a statement obtained by the AP.