The National Transportation Safety Board is calling upon the U.S. Coast Guard to implement safety regulations that were originally recommended nearly 20 years ago for DUKW amphibious passenger vessels, following the sinking of a Branson Ride the Ducks amphibious vehicle in Table Rock Lake on July 29, 2018 that killed 17 of the 31 people on board.
Today (Nov. 13) the NSTB released a report, titled “Improving Vessel Survivability and Passenger Emergency Egress of DUKW Amphibious Passenger Vessels,” which stated that while they have not yet completed their investigation into the 2018 sinking of Ride the Ducks ‘Stretch Duck 7,’ they -- in the interim -- decided to release a safety recommendation report to address the insufficient reserve buoyancy of DUKW amphibious passenger vessels, along with their impediments to passenger emergency egress.
The report stated that the safety issues, listed in the report, were identified almost two decades ago, following the May 1999 sinking the Miss Majestic in Lake Hamilton, near Hot Springs, Arkansas, that resulted in the death of 13 people.
In a Feb. 18, 2000 letter to the Coast Guard, quoted in the report, the NTSB said, “Amphibious vessels are vulnerable to rapid sinking because they lack reserve buoyancy; consequently, the Safety Board concludes that the potential exists for another life-threatening accident similar to the sinking of the Miss Majestic, unless the vulnerability to flooding and sinking is addressed.”
In total the NTSB has issued 22 safety recommendations related to modified WWII DUKQ amphibious passenger vessels since 1999. As of the time of the duck boat sinking in Table Rock Lake, only nine of those safety recommendations had been complied with, met the objective of or surpassed what the NTSB recommended. Of the remaining recommendations, four remained pending and the other nine were disagreed with or not implemented, according to the report.
“The NTSB believes that the failure to implement the safety recommendations related to providing reserve buoyancy for DUKW amphibious passenger vessels contributed to the sinking of the Stretch Duck 7 on Table Rock Lake on July 19, 2018, stated the report. “Additionally, the failure to implement the recommendation concerning fixed canopies likely increased the number of fatalities that resulted.”
During it’s investigation into the sinking of ‘Stretch Duck 7, the NTSB has so far found that due to the low freeboard and lack of compartmentalization or subdivision of the Ride the Ducks boat, it lacked adequate reserve buoyancy and therefore quickly sank once water entered the vessel, according to the report.
The NTSB also found that both the fixed canopy and a closed side curtain spanning the starboard side of the passenger compartment of ‘Stretch Duck 7’ impeded passengers' ability to escape the vehicle, which likely resulted in the increased number of fatalities, the report said.
Following its findings, the NTSB recommends that the U.S. Coast Guard “Require DUKW amphibious passenger vessels to have sufficient reserve buoyancy through passive means, so that they remain upright and afloat with a full complement of passengers and crewmembers in the event of damage or flooding,” and “For DUKW amphibious passenger vessels without sufficient reserve buoyancy, require the removal of canopies, side curtains, and their associated framing during waterborne operations to improve emergency egress in the event of sinking,” according to the report.
In response to this report, Branson Ride the Ducks Owner Ripley Entertainment Inc., submitted a statement via email from Public Relations Manager Suzanne Smagala-Potts.
“We are reviewing the report by the National Transportation Safety Board. Branson Ride The Ducks continues to cooperate with the NTSB and all investigative authorities as they determine the facts surrounding the unprecedented storm and resulting accident on Table Rock Lake that occurred in July of 2018. As we have from the beginning, we are dedicated to working with the community of Branson, and continuing our support of the families and employees who were impacted by the accident.”
The press release and full report released by the NTSB can be found at https://www.ntsb.gov/news/press-releases/Pages/NR20191113.aspx.