The captain of an amphibious vessel that sank and killed 17 people near Branson in July has been charged in an indictment by a federal grand jury, according to the US Attorney’s office of the Western District of Missouri. The charges are 17 counts of misconduct, negligence or inattention to duty by a ship’s officer resulting in death.
51-year-old Kenneth Scott McKee is charged with one count for each of the 17 passengers who died when the duck boat sank on July 19, 2018, according to the US Attorney's office.
The July accident occurred when an amphibious vessel known as a duck boat sank on Table Rock Lake when a sudden and severe storm rolled into the area.
US Attorney Tim Garrison briefed reporters Thursday morning in Springfield. He said the grand jury alleges in the indictment that McKee failed to properly assess the nature of the approaching storm both before the vessel entered the water and while it was on the lake. The indictment also alleges the captain failed to tell passengers to put their life jackets on.
The National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning for Table Rock Lake and the surrounding area at 6:32 that evening. The day after the accident, Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader said the first distress calls came in just over half an hour later.
The wind speed at the time of the accident was more than 70 mph, just short of hurricane force, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
The charges are a Class C felony, Garrison said, and a conviction carries a range of punishment that could include imprisonment for no more than 10 years, and a fine of up to 250,000 dollars.
According to the US Attorney’s office, the U.S. Coast Guard found probable cause that the accident "resulted from the misconduct, negligence, or inattention to the duties" by the boat's captain.
The amphibious boats were originally designed for use in World War II, but since then, many have been used nationwide for tourism.