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"Deathtraps": Fatal Branson duck boat accident shines light on past incidents

Duck boats involved in previous accidents
Duck boats have a history of deadly accidents 02:28

The company involved in a deadly tour boat crash in Branson, Missouri, has come under scrutiny following a series of other accidents. According to the Stone County Sheriff's Office, 17 people are dead after a Ride the Ducks boat capsized and sank on Table Rock Lake during a powerful storm Thursday.

Jim Pattison Jr., the president of Ripley Entertainment, which owns the duck boat company involved, told "CBS This Morning" the boat "shouldn't have been in the water."

But this isn't the first time duck boats have been involved in a deadly crash. In 1999, 13 people died when a duck boat sank in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) blamed inadequate maintenance.

In 2010, two tourists were killed in Philadelphia when a duck boat was hit by a barge. The NTSB found the operator of the tugboat responsible for towing the barge was distracted.

The sunken duck boat is retrieved from the bottom of the Delaware River, Philadelphia, July 9, 2010.
The sunken duck boat is retrieved from the bottom of the Delaware River, Philadelphia, July 9, 2010. CBS/KYW

In 2015, five people were killed and 69 others were injured when a duck boat collided with a bus carrying a group of students in Seattle. The NTSB ruled mechanical failure and improper maintenance, as well as loophooles in federal oversight caused the crash. But NTSB chair Christopher Hart also pointed to a lack of protection for the passengers, including seatbelts and "deformed" seats, which contributed to the severity of the crash.

Just one year later, there were three separate crashes. One took place in Philadelphia, while two happened in Boston, prompting officials in Boston to increase safety regulations.

In the wake of this latest incident, attorney Robert Mongeluzzi's Philadelphia law firm, which represented previous victims and called duck boats "deathtraps," released a statement calling for a national ban of the vehicles.

"There have now been more than 40 deaths associated with these inherently unsafe, novelty tourist rides," Mongeluzzi said. "After this tragedy, we again ask, What does it take for tour operators to realize that they cannot value profit more than human life and public safety? Why would those boats, which ride very low in the water on a calm day, even be operating given the severe weather conditions and posted small craft advisories? It was unconscionable. "

Safety advocates have sought improvements to the boats since the Arkansas incident. Critics argued that part of the problem is numerous agencies regulate the boats with varying safety requirements.

Duck boats were originally used by the U.S. military in World War II to transport troops and supplies, and later were modified for use as sightseeing vehicles.

Branson duck boat accident: Captain among the survivors 20:41
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