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As Branson Community Gathers to Mourn, Details of Boat Tragedy Continue to Emerge

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College of the Ozarks
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Used with permission

Mourners gathered Sunday afternoon near Branson to pay tribute to the 17 people who lost their lives Thursday when the tourist boat they were riding encountered a severe storm and sank in Table Rock Lake.

The chapel at College of the Ozarks near Branson was full as civic and religious leaders expressed their grief and praised the community’s response.

12 of the 17 passengers who perished were visiting from out-of-state;  nine were from a single family from Indiana.

Branson resident Yvette Strick said she didn’t know anyone on the boat, but she came to the memorial because she felt like her heart was breaking.

“When you live in a tourist community, you fast become a friend to everyone. And we have a very tight community. Also, they’re here, and it’s our job to try to make them feel welcome,” she said.

The drowning victims ranged in age from one to 76, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s incident report; nine people were from the same extended family.

Joanie Jorash attended the service; she studies social work at the college.

“You know, it’s easy to just kind of be like, ‘It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t apply to me.’ I wasn’t technically involved. But I just wanted to be there for these people, even if they never know who I am,” Jorash said.

The drowning victims ranged in age from one to 76, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s incident report; nine people were from the same extended family.

The MSHP report also said none of the 31 passengers aboard the boat were wearing life jackets.

Efforts now turn to the investigation, which is being conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The US Coast Guard said it plans to oversee a salvage crew bringing the sunken vessel up to the surface Monday. The duck boat will then be transported to a secure facility, where it will undergo an inspection as part of the investigation.