Attorneys for victims of duck boat tragedy in Branson say they are hoping the state’s criminal case will head to trial

In total the prosecutors filed 63 new charges against Kenneth Scott McKee, Charles Baltzell and...
In total the prosecutors filed 63 new charges against Kenneth Scott McKee, Charles Baltzell and Curtis Lanham.(KY3)
Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 12:14 AM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Three former Branson Duck Boat employees including the captain will be in front of a Stone County judge Wednesday.

Missouri’s Attorney General and the Stone County prosecutor filed a total of 63 criminal charges this summer against Captain Kenneth Scott McKee and two supervisors, Curtis Lanham and Charles Baltzell.

“The case was in criminal, legal limbo. The victims just did not feel any sense of justice being served at all,” said Andrew Duffy attorney for the victims.

On July 19, 2018, a Stretch Duck 7 duck boat with 31 people on board capsized and sank in stormy weather on Table Rock Lake near Branson.

Seventeen passengers, including nine from the same family and one crew member driving the boat, drowned that night, which became one of the deadliest boating tragedies in United States history.

Earlier this year a federal judge dismissed charges filed by federal prosecutors, concluding that they did not have jurisdiction.

“They are all, especially Tia Coleman, who suffered the most devastating loss any human being could ever suffer, losing her entire family. She, in particular, is extremely grateful that the charges are being pursued,” said Duffy.

In their initial assessment, authorities blamed thunderstorms and winds that approached hurricane strength. The duck boat sank under high waves while winds around the area reached up to 70 miles per hour that day.

Duffy said, “Any objective person that views the fact finding by the NTSB related to this catastrophe would agree that the facts here are not just outrageous they’re absolutely criminal.”

Investigators say Ride the Ducks had plenty of warning about the severe weather, but the boat still launched more than 20 minutes after a thunderstorm warning was issued for Table Rock Lake.

“Will there be disappointment if the criminal charges do not stick? Absolutely. Everyone involved in this knows that 17 very innocent people lost their lives in a very preventable accident. Nobody has been held criminally accountable. We’re looking for that result for this criminal action,” said Duffy.

Charges range from first-degree involuntary manslaughter to first-degree endangering the welfare of a child.

“We are reviewing the charges. Expect not guilty pleas will be entered and will continue vigorously represent Mr. McKee,” J.R. Hobbs and Marilyn B. Keller, who represent the captain, said in a statement released at the time the charges were filed.

We will have full coverage of Wednesday’s proceedings in our newscasts and online.

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