Seventeen people, including children, have died and a number of passengers are injured after a duck boat capsized during a thunderstorm that ravaged Table Rock Lake in Missouri on Thursday.
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 broadcast by KY3.
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. ET with the thunderstorm winds as high as 60 mph, according to NBC News. The duck boat remains at the bottom of the lake.
Rader added that an off-duty sheriff’s deputy was on the boat and helped rescue people.
In a statement, the 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.”
The Table Rock Lake Twitter page tweeted it was “aware of a major incident that happened tonight” at the lake “and ask that you pray for those involved as well as law enforcement/first responders.”
In a video captured and shared on Facebook by Jeanie Phillips-Hudson Carr, two duck boats are seen struggling to reach land while a thunderstorm raged on.
One duck boat is seen gaining speed in the lake as it appears to make headway toward land, while the other remains left behind and struggling to remain upright against ferocious winds.
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.
In a second video posted by Phillips-Hudson Carr, workers on the showboat can be heard desperately calling for rope and help to try to rescue the stricken amphibious boat.
“We are at Branson and on the showboat! A storm came in as we got on and there was [sic] 2 ducks that you ride out there and 1 went under. Not sure if everyone on it is ok,” Phillips-Hudson Carr wrote.
In audio obtained by the News-Leader, a dispatcher tells first responders people aboard the Branson Belle were pulling victims out of the water.
“We have a report of a duck that has sank [sic] completely,” the dispatcher said. “They have lost sight of it. About 10 people have surfaced, but there were about 20 people on board.”
“They are attempting to pull people out on the Belle and the surrounding dock,” the dispatcher continued. “We have CPR in progress on one. One more they can see, face down in the water. They’re trying to get to [it] at this time.”
A first responder could be heard telling the dispatcher, “Copy that. If you would, go ahead and notify Mercy. Tell ’em to send every truck they’ve got.”
The duck boat was part of Ride the Duck in Branson, Missouri, a fleet which was bought last year by Ripley Entertainment, the company that owns Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
Suzanne Smagala-Potts, a spokeswoman for the company tells PEOPLE they are aware of the situation.
“Number one, our priority is the families and employees, and that’s what we’re focusing on. We are in contact with authorities but we do not have enough information at this time to confirm anything,” Smagala-Potts says.
According to the company’s website, Ride the Ducks is a guided amphibious tour for both land and water that lasts 70 minutes.
President Donald Trump reacted to the news on Twitter, early Friday, sharing his condolences.
“My deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those involved in the terrible boat accident which just took place in Missouri,” wrote the president. “Such a tragedy, such a great loss. May God be with you all!”