A local prosecutor on Friday filed a total of 63 felony criminal charges against three employees over a July 2018 tourist boat accident on a Missouri lake that killed 17 people.
The charges were filed in Stone County against the captain, the general manager and the manager on duty the day of the accident for the Ride the Ducks attraction on Table Rock Lake near the tourist mecca of Branson.
The charges against captain Kenneth Scott McKee, of Verona, general manager Curtis Lanham, of Galena, and manager on duty Charles Baltzell, of Kirbyville, came seven months after a federal judge dismissed charges filed by federal prosecutors, concluding that they did not have jurisdiction.
McKee faces 29 charges, including 17 charges of first-degree involuntary manslaughter. An affidavit from a Missouri Highway Patrol sergeant accuses him of failing to exercise his duties as a licensed captain by taking his amphibious vehicle onto the lake during a thunderstorm.
“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.
Baltzell and Lanham face 17 charges each of first-degree involuntary manslaughter. They are accused of failing communicate weather conditions and failing to cease operations during a severe thunderstorm warning.
Attorneys for Baltzell and Lanham did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.
The charges were announced by County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Selby and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt. Thirty-one people were aboard when the duck boat entered the lake. A storm came up suddenly and the waves swamped the boat before it could make it back to shore.
Fourteen people survived. The dead included nine members of one family from Indianapolis. Other victims were from Missouri, Illinois and Arkansas.
Rides on the lake in modified former World War II vehicle once were a popular draw in the Branson area in southwest Missouri. Ripley Entertainment, which owned the former World War II vehicle, settled 31 lawsuits related to the sinking.
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