Locals rushed to help tourists in Branson, Missouri, duck boat accident

Investigators say all 31 people on board the duck boat that sank during a powerful storm on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri, on Thursday have been accounted for. Sixteen passengers and one crew member were killed. All but the boat's two crew members were tourists -- visitors from somewhere else.

But Branson is a town where, in some ways, there are no strangers, CBS News' Dana Jacobson reports. Their dedication to helping anyone inside their town was evident from the local residents who tried to save the duck boat passengers to the families who traveled there to mourn.

"We're a community of resilience and we are all about taking care of our citizens, but I think what makes us very unique is we're all about taking care of strangers, too," Branson Mayor Karen Best told Jacobson. "It's what's made us who we are. … When you come here, the experience that you get is that we love on you, no matter whether you're here as a citizen or you're here as someone that we've never met before." 

Pat Cox, who owns the State Park Marina on Table Rock Lake, called his manager Roger Carpenter just after 6 p.m. Thursday with orders to evacuate the marina.

"I got a call from Mitch, our general manager, who said, 'Hey, I just got a call. …There's a duck out there, capsized. Get out there.' He didn't even get all the words out of his mouth and I was gone with boats," Carpenter said. "Three boats right away with ten guys, 12 guys."

Carpenter was expecting to find people in life jackets floating in the water. What he encountered was very different.

"All we seen was empty life jackets and empty life rings and I mean, your heart just drops," he said. "It's a shame. It's a crying shame."
 
Carpenter did save two men who had gone out to rescue victims only to become stranded themselves. They also picked up three of the deceased. 

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Roger Carpenter

CBS News

"There'll be plenty of experts that study this, but I think an ounce of prevention on the front end would've prevented most of this from happening," said Pat Cox, who has owned his marina for almost three decades.

Branson isn't the only place where duck boats are a popular tourist attraction, though. More than 100 duck boats are currently registered in the U.S. 

A patchwork of regulations govern them. The Coast Guard regulates them on the water, but on land, laws vary by city and state.