Emergency responders work at Table Rock Lake after a deadly boat accident in Branson, Mo., Thursday, July 19, 2018. A sheriff in Missouri said a tourist boat has apparently capsized on the lake, leaving several people dead and several others hospitalized.

(Nathan Papes/The Springfield News-Leader via AP)

Boat Inspector, Meteorologist Say Warning Signs Were Missed by Duck Boat Operators

“I wouldn’t necessarily call them a deathtrap, but they’re not exactly the safest in the world."

July 23, 2018 - 9:27 am
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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - Terry Shofner and his wife took a ride on a duck boat in Branson the same day one sank and killed 17 people.

The Shofners were on the same lake just hours before, and Terry Shofner is now thinking about how he would escape from the unique vessel.

"There are openings between the canopy and the side of the boat, which you could definitely jump out," he says. "There are … shades that come down that are clear plastic that I suspect had been pulled down because of the wind."

Those wind flaps may have been held in place by water pressure, making escape more difficult.

Shofner says he's ridden duck boats a half-dozen times before. Would he again? Not with any hint of any kind of weather, he says.

Amid reports that no passengers on the ill-fated boat had life jackets on, Shofner says the crew gave a very thorough demonstration on how to don the life jackets, but nobody did.

A retired AccuWeather meteorologist is warning against trusting phone app radars for mission critical decisions.

Author and blogger Mike Smith tells KMOX that radars - like those you may have on your phone - did not show the gust front that produced nearly hurricane force winds.

"On the professional-grade radar, you could see that there were 78 mile-an-hour winds moving right into Table Rock Lake," he says. "That’s really important if you’re making the type of decisions a boat owner might need to make."

Smith says if you have to make those types of decisions, you should rely on professional weather services.

A private inspector in St. Louis says he noticed troubling design flaws when he inspected duck boats operated on Table Rock Lake last year.

Steve Paul, owner of Test Drive Technologies, says he warned Ripley Entertainment, which operates the Branson boats, that water could flood engines and stall pumps that remove water from the boats' hulls in stormy weather.

Paul says he would not take his family on a duck boat again, knowing what he knows now.

“I wouldn’t necessarily call them a deathtrap, but they’re not exactly the safest in the world,” he says.

Paul says he's speaking up about his findings because he wants better regulation of duck boat type watercraft.

“To bring the two regulators together, both the DOT and the coast guard to come together on a set of standards for these amphibious vehicles to make them safer for the public,” he says.