17 dead after Missouri duck boat sinks in storm

July 20 (Reuters) - Divers on Friday pulled the last four bodies from the wreckage of a "duck boat" that sank in a storm in a Missouri lake, killing 17 people in one of the deadliest U.S. tourist incidents in years.

The World War Two-style amphibious vehicle was filled with 31 passengers including children when a microburst storm hit Table Rock Lake outside the tourist city of Branson, Missouri, on Thursday. A video of the incident showed it battered by waves.

Wendy Doucey, an office manager at the Stone County sheriff's office, said divers had recovered the four bodies from the sunken duck boat. The vehicle was 80 feet (24 m) underwater.

SEE ALSO: How safe are duck boats? Deadly accident on Missouri lake renews concerns

"It's important that we find out for sure what events did occur," Missouri Governor Michael Parson said at a Friday morning news conference. "Today it's just still early."

The incident began around 7 p.m. (0000 GMT) on Thursday after thunderstorms rolled through the area when two duck boats were out on the lake, officials said. Both headed back to shore but only one made it.

"From what I understand there was life jackets in the duck," Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader told the press conference. He declined to answer questions about whether passengers on the duck had been wearing them.

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Tourist 'duck boat' capsizes in Missouri
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Tourist 'duck boat' capsizes in Missouri
Rescue personnel work after an amphibious "duck boat" capsized and sank, at Table Rock Lake near Branson, Stone County, Missouri, U.S. July 19, 2018 in this still image obtained from a video on social media. SOUTHERN STONE COUNTY FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT/Facebook/via REUTERS
Rescue personnel are seen after an amphibious "duck boat" capsized and sank, at Table Rock Lake near Branson, Stone County, Missouri, U.S. July 19, 2018 in this still image obtained from a video on social media. SOUTHERN STONE COUNTY FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT/Facebook/via REUTERS
A duck boat is seen at Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri, U.S., July 19, 2018 in this picture grab obtained from social media video. Ron Folsom/via REUTERS
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A family of mourners stop to place a flower on a World War II DUKW boat used by Ride The Ducks tours on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: The fleet of the World War II DUKW boats are seen at Ride the Ducks on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday.(Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A family of mourners pause for a moment of prayer at Ride The Ducks Tours on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A Ride The Ducks World War II DUKW boat is seen at Ride The Ducks on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: Vehicles of the victims of Thursday's Branson Duck Boat accident have been turned into a memorial on the parking lot for Ride The Ducks on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday.(Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: Cards and flowers are seen on the vehicle of one of the victims of the Ride The Ducks Accident at Ride The Ducks Tours on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: Cards and flowers are seen on the vehicle of a victim of the Ride The Ducks Accident at Ride The Ducks Tours on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: The fleet of the World War II DUKW boats are seen at Ride the Ducks on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday.(Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A family of mourners stop to place a flower on a World War II DUKW boat used by Ride The Ducks tours on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A vehicle of one of the Ride The Ducks accident victims is seen as it has become a memorial on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A Ride The Ducks World War II DUKW boat is seen at Ride The Ducks on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A family places flowers on vehicles of the victims of the Ride The Ducks accident on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A vehicle of one of the victims of Thursday's Branson Duck Boat accident has been turned into a memorial on the parking lot for Ride The Ducks on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A group of mourners pause for a moment of prayer at Ride The Ducks Tours on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A family of mourners pause for a moment of prayer at Ride The Ducks Tours on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A family places flowers on vehicles of the victims of the Ride The Ducks accident on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: Boaters are seen on Table Rock Lake on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Table Rock Lake was the sight of a Ride The Ducks Tours Duck Boat capsizing accident on July 19th that killed over 10 people. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A group of mourners pause for a moment of prayer and remembrance of the victims of the Ride The Ducks accident at Ride The Ducks Tours on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A Ride The Ducks World War II DUKW boat is seen at Ride The Ducks on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A group of mourners pause for a moment of prayer and remembrance of the victims of the Ride The Ducks accident at Ride The Ducks Tours on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A Ride The Ducks World War II DUKW boat is seen at Ride The Ducks on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A Ride The Ducks World War II DUKW boat is seen at Ride The Ducks on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A Ride The Ducks World War II DUKW boat is seen at Ride The Ducks on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
Mourners gather in the parking lot of the Ride the Ducks offices in Branson, Mo., during a candle light vigil on Friday, July 20, 2018 for the victims of the Branson duck boat tragedy at Table Rock Lake. (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: An overall of Table Rock Lake is seen on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Table Rock Lake was the sight of a Ride The Ducks Tours Duck Boat capsizing accident on July 19th that killed over 10 people. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
On Friday, July 20, 2018, the Branson Belle tour boat is docked on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Mo., where an amphibious vehicle capsized on Thursday, July 19, 2018, due to high winds. Seventeen people died in the mishap. People on the Branson Belle, which had not left the dock, assisted in rescuing some of the survivors. (Rich Sugg/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A young girl plays with a toy candle during a evening candlelight vigil at Life Christian Center Church on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of Branson and surrounding areas are gathering to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake during a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
Mourners gather in the parking lot of the Ride the Ducks offices in Branson, Mo., during a candle light vigil on Friday, July 20, 2018 for the victims of the Branson duck boat tragedy at Table Rock Lake. (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: Worshippers gather during a evening candlelight prayer vigil at Life Christian Center Church on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of Branson and surrounding areas are gathering to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake during a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: Worshippers gather during a evening candlelight prayer vigil at Life Christian Center Church on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of Branson and surrounding areas are gathering to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake during a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: Worshippers gather during a evening candlelight prayer vigil at Life Christian Center Church on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of Branson and surrounding areas are gathering to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake during a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A child places a candle down during a evening candlelight prayer vigil at Life Christian Center Church on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of Branson and surrounding areas are gathering to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake during a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
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The National Transportation Safety Board and U.S. Coast Guard are investigating, officials said. Rader noted that the boat's captain survived the sinking but the driver did not.

Officials did not comment on the identities or ages of the other people who drowned.

 

'NEVER SEEN IT LIKE THIS'

Rick Kettles, the owner of the Lakeside Resort General Store and Restaurant, said he had never before seen conditions on Table Rock Lake like those that resulted from Thursday's storm.

"I am 54 and I started coming here when I was 6 or 7 years old. I have been on my lake most of my life and I have never seen it like this," Kettles said. "I am trying to figure out why the boats were out there. I don't get it, having a captain's license myself."

A microburst is a severe, localized wind gust, blasting down from a thunderstorm, typically covering an area less than 2.5 miles (4 km) in diameter and lasting less than five minutes.

The company that owned the duck boat, Ripley Entertainment, said it was working with families of the victims.

"Our number one priority is the families and our employees that were affected by this tragic accident," spokeswoman Suzanne Smagala-Potts said on Thursday.

Table Rock Lake is a 67-square-mile (174 sq km) reservoir containing water impounded by the Table Rock Dam on the White River.

Duck vehicles, modeled on the landing craft used in the D-Day invasion and used on sightseeing tours around the world, have been involved in a number of fatal accidents on land and water in the past two decades.

Thirteen people died in 1999 when the duck boat they were riding near Hot Springs, Arkansas, sank suddenly.

The company that builds ducks, Ride the Ducks International LLC, agreed in 2016 to pay a $1 million fine after one of the vehicles, which operate on land as well as water, collided with a bus in Seattle, killing five international students.

The company admitted to failing to comply with U.S. vehicle manufacturing rules.

Two tourists died in Philadelphia in 2010 when the duck boat they were riding in was struck by a tugboat in the Delaware River.

Branson, in southwestern Missouri, is a family-friendly tourist destination whose attractions include "Dolly Parton's Stampede" dinner theater, the Amazing Acrobats of Shanghai and a Titanic museum with a model of the sunken vessel's front half.

(Reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico and Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee, additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg and Gina Cherelus in New York and Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas, Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Steve Orlofsky)

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