One year since the Missouri duck boat tragedy, tours across the US are still running

Crystal Hill

INDIANAPOLIS – A year after a duck boat sank on Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri, killing 17 people including nine members of an Indianapolis family, duck boats are still operating across the country.

From California to Maine, more than a dozen duck boat tours were still running as of July 1, according to websites for the tours. The tourist attraction typically consists of a ride on land and in water, during which riders can see and often learn about attractions and landmarks.

The boats, though, have long raised questions of whether the amphibious vehicles are safe enough for passengers. Over the last two decades, collisions resulting in fatalities on both land and water have occurred in several cities, including Boston and Seattle, where duck boat tours are still operating.

The Branson tragedy on July 19, 2018, intensified those concerns, prompting lawmakers and safety experts to call for safety regulations and complete bans. Tia Coleman, a survivor of the Branson sinking who lost her husband, daughter and two sons, said she draws hope from their memory "to fight to ban dangerous, death trap duck boats," according to a statement provided Tuesday to the Indianapolis Star. 

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Ride the Ducks in Branson stopped operating, and its building closed after the sinking. It's now a laser tag attraction, the Springfield (Missouri) News-Leader reports.

Other duck boat tours, however, remain open for business. Here’s where you can ride one: 

Hot Springs, Arkansas

One of the country's worst duck boat sinkings occurred two decades ago in Hot Springs. Thirteen people died when the Miss Majestic sank on May 1, 1999. Facing a lawsuit brought by families of the victims, the owner of Land & Lake Tours Inc., sold the company's assets, the News-Leader reported.

Now, duck boat tours of historic landmarks in Hot Springs are offered by National Park Duck Tours. 

A duck boat is a sightseeing vessel that can travel on land or water.

Boston

Boston Duck Tours navigates the city and the Charles River, offering riders a tour of the city’s neighborhoods, landmarks and popular destinations.

This particular tour is no stranger to scrutiny. Calls to implement enhanced safety measures came after a fatal collision in 2016. A woman riding a motor scooter in downtown Boston was killed when a duck boat overtook the scooter as both vehicles were driving, according to a report from the National Transportation Safety Board. The female driver was killed.

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After the accident, Massachusetts lawmakers passed a law that prohibits duck boat drivers from simultaneously performing as both a narrator and tour guide, the Associated Press reported.

A spokesman with Boston Duck Tours said the tour prioritizes safety and continues to “operate in full compliance with US Coast Guard, Department of Transportation and local agency regulations.”

Seattle

Ride the Ducks in Seattle, which provides riders views of the Seattle Aquarium and the original Starbucks, among other tourist spots, was involved in a deadly collision during one of its tours on Sept. 25, 2015.

A Duck 6 amphibious vehicle collided with a vehicle on the Aurora bridge, killing five passengers and injuring 71 others

A spokesperson for the company said the Branson incident was a "horrible tragedy," adding that Ride the Ducks in Seattle is a separate company with its own safety protocols.

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“For example," the statement said, "we travel in the protected waters of Lake Union and the Lake Washington Ship Canal, never more than 1,000 feet from shore and in close proximity to numerous, easily accessible exits. We begin monitoring weather conditions prior to our morning staff briefing and continue to track conditions throughout the day."

“Also, our vessels are equipped with watertight bilge compartments and quick-release safety windows, which allow the crew to automatically eject windows and provide immediate exit routes for passengers and crews. Our crews, including our U.S. Coast Guard-licensed captains, complete rigorous safety trainings, including open-water drills on a regular basis.”

Here are other cities with duck boat tours:

Alabama

Alaska

California

Florida

Hawaii

Maine

Rhode Island

Texas

Washington, D.C.

Wisconsin

Contributing: USA TODAY and the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader. Follow Crystal Hill on Twitter: @crysnhill

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Duck boat tours still operate in US after July 2018 Branson tragedy