The captain of the duck boat tour that ended with 17 drowned both checked the weather and referenced life jackets before the doomed trip, investigators have revealed.
The National Transportation Safety Board on Friday said recordings recovered from the boat reveal the captain made a reference to checking the weather radar as passengers boarded the amphibious vessel the evening of July 19.
Per the Springfield News-Leader, Captain Kenneth McKee was told by someone who briefly stepped onto the boat to take give water part of the tour first.
The boat entered Table Rock Lake near Branson at 6:55 p.m., nearly a half hour after a thunderstorm warning was issued for the area by the National Weather Service.
The NTSB report also notes that McKee referenced life jackets before the boat entered the water, though it does not indicate if he told passengers they wouldn’t need them, as survivors have reportedly said.
“The briefing included the location of emergency exits as well as the location of the life jackets,” said the report. “The captain then demonstrated the use of a life jacket and pointed out the location of the life rings.”
In a press release, the NTSB was careful to note that these findings are very preliminary.
“The information does not contain analysis,” the NTSB said. “As such, no conclusions regarding the cause of the accident should be made from this preliminary information.”
The duck boat company has chosen not to comment.
Video analyzed by the NTSB cuts off at 7:08 p.m., just before the boat sank, leaving the captain dead along with 16 others.
Also among the dead were nine members of a single family.
Only two of the 11 members of the Coleman family survived after nearly hurricane-force winds capsized the boat.
Tia Coleman, who lost her husband and three young children, spoke out from the hospital following the life-altering ordeal.
“This big huge waves choppy, everybody started getting like hey, this is getting a little bit too much,” Coleman recalled to KOLR. “And then it got really choppy and big swells of water started coming in to the boat, then a really huge wave swept over.”
Victims from the Coleman family were identified as Maxwell Coleman, 2; Reece Coleman, 9; and Evan Coleman, 7; Angela Coleman, 45, Belinda Coleman, 69, Ervin Coleman, 76, Glenn Coleman, 40, and Horace Coleman, 70.
Tia Coleman and her 13-year-old nephew were the only family members to make it to shore alive.
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