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Pleasure boating, bad weather and negligence

On the evening of July 19, 2018, there was a tragic boating accident in Missouri in which many people lost their lives.

Witnesses say bad weather was to blame for the sinking of the duck boat on Table Rock Lake, but who was to blame for allowing the boat to go out?

The basic facts

When a storm came up on Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri, high winds stirred up waves as high as five feet. The Ride the Ducks tourist boat could not survive the onslaught of severe weather, flipped over and sank in 40 feet of water. Of the 29 passengers, 17 died including nine members of one family. The driver of the duck boat also died, but the captain survived.

The conditions

The National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm watch, which was effective from 11:20 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. A NWS meteorologist said that damaging winds were likely, with gusts of 70 miles per hour or more. At the time the duck boat sailed, Branson Airport reported winds of 63 miles per hour, and the storm was packing winds of 80 mph when it arrived on the lake.

Ignoring warnings

In the boating world, preventable injuries are often attributed to negligence. While some injuries sustained on the water are no one’s fault, it is also true that the owner of a vessel or the captain of that vessel could be held accountable for negligence under the Jones Act if anyone aboard sustains injuries.

For example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides official weather reports for boaters. If the NOAA predicts severe weather, and a tragedy results such as the one that occurred in Missouri, an injured person or family member who loses a loved one may be able to claim negligence if the boat owner or captain decided to go against the warnings and take the boat and its passengers out on the water anyway. 

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