Safety experts are raising concerns about duck boats after one of these amphibious vessels sank in Branson, Mo., leaving 17 people dead.
On Friday, strong wind gusts suddenly hit Branson and left a tourist duck boat stranded in the waters of Table Rock Lake, killing 17 of the 29 people on board.
Questions are now being raised about why the boat decided to venture out in such severe weather conditions, claims that the passengers weren’t told to put on life-jackets and whether duck boats should be in operation at all.
Duck boats were originally built by the U.S. military during the Second World War to allow soldiers to easily go from land to water and back. Refurbished duck boats have since been used for tourism across North America.
Cameron Taylor, CEO of BOATsmart!, which issues boating licenses in Canada and the United States, told CTV News Channel that the vehicles are known for having large blind spots.
“There is a big question here about whether these vessels should actually be operating in a recreational-type use,” he said.
“It does appear at minimum, there needs to be better regulations around these vessels,” he added. “If not, these vessels should be considered to be taken off the water for this kind of use.”
Alex Nosal, a boat safety expert with the Toronto Marine Safety School, said he wouldn’t go into the water in a duck boat if waves were higher than six inches.
Under current regulations in Canada, life-jackets are required onboard a commercial boat, but passengers are not required to wear them. Nosal said he thinks this rule should be updated.
“If you’re in such a boat like a duck boat, I think it should definitely be a requirement that everybody dons a life-jacket before it enters the water,” he said.
This is not the first time safety concerns have been raised when it comes to commercial duck boats. This type of vessel has been linked to more than 40 deaths in the U.S. since 1999 and the U.S. Transportation Safety Board has warned that boats with canopies greatly reduce the ability of passengers to escape in an emergency situation.
Amphibious boat tours like the one in Branson are available in a number of Canadian cities, including Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax. In 2002 in Ottawa, four people were killed when their duck boat sank.