Sunken Duck Boat's COI Contained Strict Weather Limits
The U.S. Coast Guard has released the Certificate of Inspection (COI) for the Stretch Duck 07, the amphibious tour boat that went down in Table Rock Lake, Missouri on July 19. The COI contains operational limitations which may have been exceeded during the accident voyage, including limits on permissible weather and surface conditions.
The COI indicates that the 1944-built Stretch Duck 07's stability letter was issued on March 2009, and its last "drydock" was conducted in January 2017. Its operations were confined to Table Rock Lake and nearby Lake Taneycomo, and it was not permitted to operate on the water "when winds exceed thirty-five (35) miles per hour, and/or the wave height exceeds two (2) feet."
The National Transportation Safety Board believes that the wind speed exceeded 70 miles per hour at the time of the sinking, and bystander video indicates that the Stretch Duck 07 may have encountered waves exceeding two feet. A severe thunderstorm warning was in effect for the Branson area during the accident voyage.
17 people lost their lives in the sinking, and the commandant of the Coast Guard has convened a Marine Board of Investigation to look into the circumstances surrounding the casualty. The panel is the service's highest-level investigative option, and its five members will examine events leading up to the accident, the operator's regulatory compliance, crewmember duties and qualifications, weather conditions and reporting, and the Coast Guard's oversight performance.
“Our hearts go out to the victims as well as the families and friends that have been impacted by this terrible tragedy that occurred in Branson,” said Capt. Wayne Arguin, chairman of the Marine Board of Investigation and the commander of Sector New Orleans. “The Coast Guard will conduct a thorough and detailed investigation to identify all potential causal factors associated with this tragedy.”
The Coast Guard's top prevention policy officer, Rear Adm. John Nadeau, has asked all Coast Guard inspection zones to review the operations of amphibious passenger vessels in their regions. Officers in charge of marine inspection, along with all duck boat operators, owners and masters, are instructed to ensure that crews and managers are familiar with the vessels' operational limitations and with the conditions listed in their COIs; that operators have (or are encouraged to create) an operations manual; and that crews conduct drills on general duties, flooding, beaching, evacuations and weather measures. In addition, the circular instructs inspectors and operators to "take a proactive approach to vessel oversight," including frequent communications with the master.