Kenneth Scott McKee was indicted Thursday in connection with the tragic duck boat sinking that killed 17 people, including nine members of one family.
Prosecutors said McKee did not properly assess the weather that fateful day in July — before or after the boat went into the water. McKee also allegedly failed to tell passengers to put on their flotation devices or prepare them to abandon ship after two separate alarms sounded.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigated the incident, the captain had conducted a safety briefing before the boat entering the water, demonstrating how to use the life jacket and pointing out their location.
The captain was charged with 17 counts of misconduct and negligence or inattention to duty by a ships officer resulting in death, according to the indictment. He faces up to 10 years in prison on each count.
Video: Captain in deadly Missouri duck boat crash indicted
The amphibious boat was not supposed to operate in water if winds in the area clocked in at 35 mph or waves were higher than 2 feet, according to the vessels certificate of inspection, released by the U.S. Coast Guard.
The vessel known as a “duck boat” went down July 19 on Table Rock Lake near the city of Branson. The amphibious vehicle, which can drive on land and float in water, carried 29 passengers and two crew.
Missouri duck boat captain indicted in connection with sinking that killed 17 passengers
Twenty-nine passengers and 2 crew members were on board the Stretch Duck 7 on July 19, when it sank in Table Rock Lake near the tourist town of Branson, Missouri, as thunderstorms rolled into the area. The boat landed upright on its wheels.
The U.S. Coast Guard found probable cause that the accident "resulted from the misconduct, negligence, or inattention to the duties" by the boat's captain, Kenneth McKee, according to an August court filing. The U.S. attorney's office added that the captain of a second duck boat that safely made it to shore during the storm acted in a "grossly negligent manner," though the court filing didn't elaborate on those findings.
Duck Boat Captain Indicted In Missouri Lake Accident That Killed 17
Several lawsuits have been filed on behalf of victims and survivors, including a $100 million federal lawsuit filed in Kansas City, Missouri, by lawyers representing victims of the Indiana family that lost nine relatives in the accident.
Missouri tour boat captain indicted after sinking kills 17
All but two members of the Coleman family who went on that duck boat excursion were killed in the accident. Tia Coleman lost her three young children and husband. Arya Coleman, only 1 year old, was the youngest to die and Ervin Coleman, 76, was the oldest.
Grand jury indicts captain of duck boat invovled in deadly accident near Branson
In a statement through her attorneys following the indictment, Tia Coleman said “While nothing can ever ease the grief in my heart, I am grateful that the U.S. Attorneys Office is fighting for justice for my family, and the other victims, and is committed to holding fully accountable all those responsible for this tragedy.”
Also among the victims were two couples from Missouri, an Illinois woman who died while saving her granddaughters life, and an Arkansas father and son.
“The captain did say something about life jackets,” Tia Coleman said following the accident. “He said, Above you are your life jackets. There are three sizes. Im gonna show you where they are, but you wont need them. So, no need to worry. So we didnt grab them.”
The NTSB report on the accident does not mention the captain saying passengers wouldnt need the life jackets.
Captain indicted in deadly Missouri tourist boat incident
Suzanne Smagala, a spokeswoman for Ripley Entertainment, the company that owns and operates the duck boats, previously said in a statement, “We are refrained from commenting on an ongoing investigation, including the suit that has been filed by the Missouri Attorney General.”
“We continue to fully cooperate with federal and state authorities, including the NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board]. We are providing all documentation and materials requested in the case and are complying with all hearing procedures,” the statement said.
(CNN)The captain of a duck boat that capsized in July on a Missouri lake, killing 17 people, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with the wreck.