Branson, MO – Nine members of the same family drowned along with 8 others in Thursday’s boating mishap, according to the governor’s office.
The parent company of Ride the Ducks is Ripley’s – part of the Jim Pattison empire.
Ripley’s bought out Ride the Ducks in December 2017 and runs the entertainment chain in 11 countries around the world.
Jim Pattison Jr is the president of Ripley’s which is based in Orlando, Florida.
“I don’t have all the details, but to answer your question, no, it shouldn’t have been in the water if, if what happened, happened,” he told CBS when asked why the tour continued in such rough conditions.
“This business has been operating for 47 years and we’ve never had an incident like this or anything close to it. To the best of our knowledge – and we don’t have a lot of information now – but it was a fast-moving storm that came out of basically nowhere is sort of the verbal analysis I’ve got,” Pattison said.
The tragic sinking of the boat occurred in rough weather with high waves and winds.
While 17 died 14 others survived. Seven among them were injured, one seriously.
A video taken by a passenger on a larger boat shows the Ride the Ducks vessel racing for shore, apparently trying to escape the large waves that were engulfing the boat.
Missouri Governor Mike Parson spent Friday in the Branson area meeting with survivors, victims’ relatives, rescuers, and emergency responders following the tragic sinking of a “duck” boat that killed 17 people in a severe storm on Thursday, his office said.
“What happened here last night was a heart-breaking tragedy, and we must all work together to support the victims and their families,” Gov. Parson said.
“The courageous efforts of emergency responders and civilian rescuers helped avert an even worse tragedy, as people rushed to help in extremely dangerous conditions. I was inspired by the stories I heard from some of those who were part of the rescue effort and tremendously encouraged by the strength of the family members of victims I met with today. We pray for all those who were affected by this terrible tragedy.”
After meeting with Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader and others leading the recovery operation early Friday morning, Gov. Parson traveled to Cox Medical Center Branson to meet with survivors and some of the medical personnel who helped treat some of those injured Thursday night. The Governor also met with some of the civilians and emergency responders who helped with rescues Thursday and with the loved ones of some of the victims.
After working throughout the night and into today, nine Missouri State Highway Patrol divers have recovered the remaining four bodies from the water totaling 17 fatalities. The Patrol divers were among several dive teams that all worked expeditiously to recover the victims. Many of the victims were out of state visitors to the Branson area. Of the 14 survivors, seven were injured, one seriously.
The investigation into the boat sinking is being led by the National Transportation Safety Board and the U.S. Coast Guard. The Governor pledged the support of all state resources necessary to assist with the investigation.
On Friday, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Critical Incident Stress Management team deployed to Branson to assist State Parks concessionaire staff and visitors who helped in search and rescue efforts Thursday. The concessionaire staff and visitors helped rescue two of the survivors and recovered the bodies of three victims immediately after the boat sank.
Other state resources that have responded to assist include the Department of Conservation and DNR State Parks rangers, the Missouri Department of Transportation, the Department of Mental Health, and the State Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Mortuary Assistance Team.
Other agencies that have played critical parts in response and recovery efforts include the Stone County Sheriff’s Department, Taney County Sheriff’s Department, Christian County Sheriff’s Department, Branson Police Department, Branson Fire Department, Southern Stone County Fire, Western Taney County Fire, Taney County Ambulance District, and Mercy Ambulance.
Gov. Parson reminded the public that severe storms are again in the forecast, for southeast Missouri, this afternoon and evening and cautioned the public to follow their local forecast and to always take protective action when severe weather strikes.
He has signed a proclamation for a week of prayers for the victims.