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Duck boat probe will check if Coast Guard rules were ignored

Like all 22 duck boats in operation in Branson, it was required to undergo annual inspections. The most recent was in February.

The investigation into the sinking of a sightseeing boat that claimed 17 lives will look at whether operators violated Coast Guard rules by venturing onto a Missouri lake as thunderstorms rolled in.

More than three days after the deadly accident, a crane attached to a barge pulled the amphibious duck boat from Table Rock Lake near Branson, where it was submerged in 80 feet of water.

Divers attached a sling to the 33-foot, four-tonne vessel, then raised and drained it, officials said.

The duck boat that sank in Table Rock Lake is raised (Nathan Papes/The Springfield News-Leader/AP)

It was to be loaded onto a vehicle and turned over to the National Transportation Safety Board.

Coast Guard Lt Tasha Sadowicz of the agency’s St Louis office said the boat that capsized and sank was known as Stretch Duck 07.

Like all 22 duck boats in operation in Branson, it was required to undergo annual inspections. The most recent was in February.

But Ms Sadowicz said the Coast Guard’s “certificate of inspection” placed limits on when the boats can enter the water based on wind speed and “sea state”, which refers to the height of waves.

Duck boats sit idle in the parking area in Branson (Charlie Riedel/AP)

Ms Sadowicz did not have information on Stretch Duck 07’s limits but said they will be a focal point of the investigation.

Some witnesses have said the lake was calm and the storm came up suddenly. Ms Sadowicz said investigators want to find out if operators were adequately monitoring the weather and should have reasonably known a storm was approaching.

At a news conference on Monday in Branson, Coast Guard Capt Scott Stoermer said the investigation will also look into whether the boat captain followed company guidelines regarding use of life jackets.

Missouri law requires boat passengers ages seven and younger to wear life jackets, but commercial vessels like the duck boats are exempt.

The law requires enough life jackets for passengers and crew, and jackets that fit all of the children.

Whether to advise passengers to use life jackets is an “operation decision” made by the captain, Mr Stoermer said.

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