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At least 13 dead as packed sightseeing duck boat capsizes in Missouri lake

A duck boat packed with dozens of tourists in Missouri’s Ozarks capsized amid rough weather Thursday night, killing 13 people, according to local reports and authorities.

First responders with the Southern Stone County Fire Protection District rushed to Table Rock Lake around 7 p.m. local time to search for survivors after a “Ride the Ducks” sightseeing vessel sank with 31 passengers aboard.

The Associated Press reported Friday morning that, according to the State Highway Patrol, 13 people have died.

Seven more people, including three children, were rushed to CoxHealth in the nearby city of Branson, according to the hospital. Two of the victims were in critical condition.

The vessel belongs to the Branson-based tour company known for ferrying tourists on a 70-minute ride through the reservoir, about 8 miles north of the Arkansas border.

The cause of the sinking was not immediately known though heavy winds whipped up white-capped waves shortly before the vessel sank, according to video.

The footage, taken from the Branson Belle Showboat, shows a pair of duck boats struggling to navigate a gauntlet of waves during the brunt of the storm. One boat managed to power through while the other repeatedly rocked back and forth in the waves.

A sheriff’s deputy working security on the nearby showboat helped in the rescue, Bader told reporters.

National Weather Service meteorologists in Tulsa, Okla., warned of thunderstorms brewing in the region with the “potential for damaging winds.”

The same six-wheeled amphibious vehicle was involved in a sinking that killed 13 people near Hot Springs, Ark., in 1999, after the vessel took on an uncontrollable amount of water. The boat sank in less than seven minutes.

The converted military vessels were designed to land soldiers from sea to soil during World War II but dozens of the boats are still operational and used to transport tourists in coastal destinations, such as Seattle and Boston.

Nearly two decades ago, the National Transportation Safety Board expressed concerns that the boats were prone to flooding and “the vulnerability to sinking” and urged operators to outfit the transports with watertight bulkheads and install flotation materials in the hull.

It’s unclear if the number of passengers played a role in the sinking. Citing a War Department Technical Manual, the National Transportation Safety Board said the U.S. Army-built supply vehicles could hold up to 5,000 pounds of cargo.

“No reference was made to passenger capacity or accommodations,” according to the agency’s safety recommendation in 2000.

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