Local woman who lost family in duck boat crash responds to grand jury indictment

The duck boat that sank in Table Rock Lake in Branson, Mo., is raised Monday, July 23, 2018. The boat went down Thursday evening after a thunderstorm generated near-hurricane strength winds. (Nathan Papes/The Springfield News-Leader via AP)
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP, WTHR) - Charges have been filed against the captain of a Missouri tourist boat that sank and killed 17 people, including nine people from an Indiana family.

A federal indictment released Thursday charges 51-year-old Kenneth Scott McKee with 17 counts of misconduct, negligence or inattention to duty by a ship's officer, resulting in death.

The deaths occurred July 19 when an amphibious vessel known as a duck boat sank on Table Rock Lake near Branson after a sudden and severe storm rolled into southwest Missouri. The indictment alleges McKee didn't properly assess the weather.

Indianapolis passenger-survivor Tia Coleman, whose husband, Glenn, and children, Arya, Evan, and Reese were killed in the July 19 disaster, issued a statement through her attorneys saying, "While nothing can ever ease the grief in my heart, I am grateful that the U.S. Attorney’s 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."

One of Coleman's attorneys, Robert J. Mongeluzzi, commended the “methodical and laser-focused investigative work of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri that exposes the reckless conduct of Ripley Entertainment’s employees, which operated the Duck Boat on Table Rock Lake.” He added, “We are confident that further investigation will reveal that the failures which led to this tragedy go far beyond the role of a single duck-boat Captain and implicate others in the Ripley’s entertainment empire."

The dead also included people from Missouri, Arkansas and Illinois, and five were children.

The company that operated the boats, Ripley Entertainment, suspended the operation after the accident.

The U.S. Coast Guard said in August that it found probable cause the accident resulted from McKee's "misconduct, negligence, or inattention to the duties."

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