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Duck Boat Sinking: NTSB Points to Previous Recommendations

The Stretch Duck 7 on July 25, 2018 after she was recovered. (NTSB Photo by Brian Young)
The Stretch Duck 7 on July 25, 2018 after she was recovered. (NTSB Photo by Brian Young)

By The Maritime Executive 2019-11-13 18:04:25

As part of its ongoing investigation of the fatal accident involving a modified WWII DUKW amphibious passenger vessel, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued Marine Safety Recommendation Report 19/01 on Wednesday. The report calls on the U.S. Coast Guard to require sufficient reserve buoyancy for DUKW amphibious passenger vessels and to require the removal of canopies, side curtains and their associated framing, while underway, for those without sufficient reserve buoyancy.  

17 of the 31 people aboard the Stretch Duck 7 died, when the vessel sank during a rapidly developing high-wind storm on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri, on July 19, 2018.

Since 1999, the NTSB has issued 22 safety recommendations related to modified WWII DUKW amphibious passenger vessels. Of those 22, nine were implemented, four were pending and the remaining nine had not been implemented. Safety recommendation M-00-5 addressed the need for DUKWs to have adequate reserve buoyancy but was classified closed – unacceptable action/no response received, eight years after its issuance. 

The NTSB believes the failure to implement previous safety recommendations related to reserve buoyancy for DUKWs contributed to the sinking of the Stretch Duck 7. Similarly, the failure to implement the previously issued recommendation concerning fixed canopies, following the fatal, 1999 Miss Majestic DUKW accident, likely increased the number of fatalities resulting from Stretch Duck 7 sinking.

“Lives could have been saved, and the Stretch Duck 7 accident could have been prevented had previously issued safety recommendations been implemented,” said NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt. “The NTSB’s 1999 investigation of the another DUKW, the Miss Majestic, also identified the lack of reserve buoyancy and the dangers of canopies as safety issues. In 2008, recommendations from that accident addressing these safety issues were classified ‘Closed-Unacceptable Action’ due largely to inaction. 20 years later, the same risk exists on these vessels, and that is unacceptable,” said Sumwalt. “It is imperative that the United States Coast Guard adopt these life-saving recommendations now.”  

The investigation of the sinking of the Stretch Duck 7 is ongoing and probable cause has not yet been determined. However, information gained through the investigation warranted the issuance of the safety recommendation report before the investigation is completed. The NTSB will issue a determination of probable cause for this accident when the investigation concludes.

The captain of the vessel and two employees of the company Ripley Entertainment already face indictments.