Saturday, August 04, 2018
Billy Long: I will work tirelessly to make sure duck boat tragedy is not repeated
On Thursday evening, July 19, news broke of a tragic accident on Table Rock Lake involving an amphibious passenger vehicle known as a duck boat. What was supposed to be a great fun family experience on the lake turned into a nightmare for all involved. The entire region was in shock and in mourning. I did not want to believe the initial reports that stated 11 dead and six missing. The fact a duck boat had sank to the bottom of our own Table Rock Lake was unspeakable. More bad news arrived Friday morning when the death toll rose to 17, with nine of the deceased being from the same family.
I immediately reached out to Branson Mayor Karen Best to offer my full support and let her know that my Springfield, Joplin and Washington, D.C. offices were ready to assist in any capacity that would be helpful. As my staff and I continued to monitor the situation the following days, one thing that became clear was the inconsistent implementation of regulations.
This isn’t the first time du ( ck boats have been involved in a tragic accident. In 1999, a duck boat on Lake Hamilton in Arkansas took on water and sank, resulting in 13 fatalities. Following that accident, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), an independent government investigative agency, suggested a number of recommendations to avoid future accidents. Unfortunately, even after the NTSB’s recommendations, several more duck boat accidents occurred.
Since these boats operate on both land and water, there are multiple agencies that regulate them, including the U.S. Coast Guard, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Due to the number of agencies involved, many of the recommended regulations have not been implemented or enforced because conflicting regulations and lack of oversight.
Moving forward, I remain committed to finding solutions and ways to hopefully ensure an accident like this never happens again. I plan to work with all entities involved on a path forward, which means waiting until the NTSB’s preliminary report is released so we can fully understand how this situation occurred.
As the Branson community recovers from this heart wrenching tragedy, I want to thank our first responders, the Red Cross and mental health officials for their continued dedication and service to our community. And a special tip of my hat to Mayor Karen Best and Governor Mike Parson, who both have demonstrated the steady hands of true leaders during this difficult time. My colleagues and l in Washington will not forget the loved ones lost. I am not for legislating off 19-year-old NTSB reports, but once it completes its investigation of what went wrong, I will work tirelessly to ensure this horrific loss of life is not repeated.