Duck boat design flagged years ago after fatal accident in Arkansas

July 20 (Reuters) - The drownings of 17 people when a “duck boat” in which they were riding sank in a storm over a Missouri lake on Thursday was reminiscent of an accident involving the amphibious tourist vessel in 1999 in which 13 people died.

Authorities were investigating on Friday how the boat capsized and the cause of the deaths, on Table Rock Lake near the tourist destination of Branson during a storm.

A Philadelphia lawyer who has advocated for victims of other duck boat disasters said the canopy roof on duck boats turned them into a "death trap" even for anyone wearing a life preserver.

"You drown if you do, you drown if you don't," said Robert Mongeluzzi, who is calling for federal and state transportation officials to immediately halt all duck boat operations.

The maker of the Missouri duck boat, Ride the Ducks International, did not respond to a request for comment.

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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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A decades-old report by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said duck boats' canopy roof contributed to the 13 deaths in the 1999 incident, on Lake Hamilton in Arkansas.

"Canopies present major safety risks that need to be addressed ... both adults and children wearing life jackets are at risk of being drowned if entrapped by the overhead canopy," the NTSB said of the sinking.

Gerald Dworkin, a consultant for Lifesaving Resources, an aquatics safety training firm in Maine, said, "Even if they were wearing a life jacket when the boat went down, unless they could evacuate through the side windows they would've been trapped by that canopy."

The U.S. Coast Guard did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the NTSB report but confirmed it is responsible for regulating boats.

Among the questions being examined by investigators was whether passengers were wearing life jackets.

 

'SAFE AND COMFORTABLE'

On the state-run Missouri Division of Tourism's website, VisitMO, Ride the Ducks said, "Our Ducks use the latest in marine design and safety. They are regularly inspected, tested & certified by the United States Coast Guard to ensure a safe and comfortable experience for our guests."

The state agency pulled the page from its website on Friday. Kate Renfrow, an agency spokeswoman, said in an email, "Our web team made a decision to pause the listing this morning to give the associates of Ride the Ducks the ability to focus on those impacted by this tragedy."

"Once we confirm the business is operating again, we intend to restore," Renfrow wrote.

A number of duck boat tragedies occurred in 2015 and 2016.

A woman walking in Philadelphia's Chinatown neighborhood was killed by a duck boat on land in May 2015. That September, a duck boat crashed into a charter bus carrying students in Seattle, killing five and injuring dozens.

In April 2016, a woman riding a scooter was killed by a duck boat in Boston.

(Reporting by Tea Kvetenadze and Barbara Goldberg in New York Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen Editing by Daniel Wallis and Steve Orlofsky)

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