The captain of a duck boat that capsized in Missouri in July, resulting in the deaths of 17 people, has been indicted for the passengers’ deaths, according to reports Thursday.
For each victim, Kenneth Scott McKee, 51, faces one felony charge of an “act of misconduct, negligence or inattention to duty” by a ship’s officer, according to NBC News. A federal criminal investigation, which is still ongoing, initially found in August that the deaths were directly associated with the McKee’s behavior, CNN reports.
The crash, which resulted in the sinking of the vessel, occurred on Thursday, July 19, in Table Rock Lake outside Branson, Missouri.
Thirty-one people were on a Ride the Ducks boat in the Ozarks when strong winds caused it to capsize, Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader said in a press conference.
Rader said at least seven people were transported to the hospital with injuries and authorities found 17 bodies during the rescue and recovery mission that continued into Friday.
Rader said he believed the boat turned over and sunk due to the stormy weather at about 8 p.m. with the thunderstorm winds as high as 60 mph, according to NBC News.
In a statement, the boating company said: “We are deeply saddened by the tragic accident that occurred at Ride The Ducks Branson. This incident has deeply affected all of us. Words cannot convey how profoundly our hearts are breaking. We will continue to do all we can to assist the families who were involved.”
A video captured and shared on Facebook by Jeanie Phillips-Hudson Carr shows the tragic events of the day — starting with two duck boats struggling to reach land while a thunderstorm raged on.
Toward the end of the video, the second boat is seen slowly turning on its side and sinking into the water as shocked bystanders watch from the Branson Belle, a showboat that helped rescue people, according to the Springfield News-Leader.
The Coleman family made up nine of the victims, according to a list provided by authorities to local media. Only two members of the family survived, Tia Coleman and her 13-year-old nephew, according to KOLR.
Tia recounted the terrifying experience of trying to escape the sinking boat, saying she “couldn’t see anybody, I couldn’t hear anything.”
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“I couldn’t hear screams, it felt like I was out there on my own,” she said. “And I was yelling, screaming and finally, I said, ‘Lord, just let me die, let me die, I can’t keep drowning, I just can’t keep drowning.’ And then I just let go.”
Tia lost her husband and their three children, aged 9, 7 and 1, in the incident as well as her parents-in-law.
Among the others who died were Janice Bright, 63, and William Bright, 65, who were celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary; William Asher, 69, of St. Louis, Missouri, and his girlfriend Rosemarie Hamann, 68; father and son, Steve Smith, 53, and Lance Smith, 15; Leslie Dennison, 65; and the duck boat’s driver Bob Williams.