Branson, Missouri, will see Duck Boats return after tragedy

Four years after a tragedy that killed 17 people on Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri, the ducks are returning to the popular tourist destination. But, organizers say they aren’t the same “ducks” so to speak, and tours will seek out new scenery on a different lake. A new group, The Branson Duck Tours, has announced the return of amphibious tours to Branson this spring, calling the tours a beloved Branson tradition. According to the company’s website, the group will use a different vehicle – the Hydra-Terra. says on its website. “The biggest improvement to our vehicles that sets them apart is the foam-filled hull that prevents sinking,” said Josh Blumenthal, director of communications for Branson Duck Tours, in an interview with KY3. Blumenthal also said the new vehicles have captain’s visibility from all passenger seats, wider aisles and an improved fire suppression system. “Our boats won’t have side curtains and I think that’s really important,” Blumenthal said. “That was such a big part of what added to the tragedy of 2018.” Also different from the boats used in the 2018 tragedy – the location. The new Hydra-Terra boat tours will take place not on Table Rock Lake, but on nearby Lake Taneycomo. A duck filled with 31 tourists capsized in rough waters and sank on Table Rock Lake in July 2018 – 17 people, including children, died. Terrifying video from a passenger on another boat showed “Stretch Duck 7” struggling in severe weather. The boat operators entered the water during a severe thunderstorm warning. This boat was ultimately unable to handle the strong winds of the storm. Video and audio recovered from the boat by divers showed the lake was calm when the boat entered the water. But the weather suddenly turned violent. Within minutes, the boat sank. The original ducks were developed during World War II as a means of supplying and reinforcing troops. After the war, they were modified for tourism. However, since 1999 the boats have been linked to dozens of deaths. In May 1999, the duck Miss Majestic sank on Lake Hamilton near Hot Springs, Arkansas – 13 people died. After this tragedy, the NTSB recommended the removal of awnings and side curtains on boats, which experts say acted as a “barrier to vertical escape.” Stretch Duck 7, part of the fleet owned and operated under Branson’s “Ride the Ducks” franchise owned by Ripley Entertainment, still had its canopy. Ripley suspended operations on Table Rock Lake and the remaining vehicles in the Branson Group fleet were sold to an Arkansas-based investment company. The Branson Duck Tours group announcing the new attraction compared the design of the Hydra-Terra to that of the World War II DUKW on its website. The group said the new boats meet all DOT and US Coast Guard regulations – while older boats have protections and exemptions from certain safety standards. Blumenthal told KY3 that tours are expected to begin in late April or early May.

Four years after a tragedy that killed 17 people on Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri, the ducks are returning to the popular tourist destination.

But, organizers say they aren’t the same “ducks” so to speak, and tours will seek out new scenery on a different lake.

A new group, The Branson Duck Tours, has announced the return of amphibious tours to Branson this spring, calling the tours a beloved Branson tradition.

According to the company’s website, the group will use a different vehicle, the Hydra-Terra.

“The Hydra-Terra is the only state-of-the-art amphibious tour bus specifically designed and built for safe duck excursions,” the company said on its website.

“The biggest improvement to our vehicles that sets them apart is the foam-filled hull that prevents sinking,” said Josh Blumenthal, director of communications for Branson Duck Tours, in an interview with KY3.

Blumenthal also said the new vehicles have captain’s visibility from all passenger seats, wider aisles and an improved fire suppression system.

“Our boats won’t have side curtains and I think that’s really important,” Blumenthal said. “That was such a big part of what added to the tragedy of 2018.”

Also different from the boats used in the 2018 tragedy – the location. The new Hydra-Terra boat tours will take place not on Table Rock Lake, but on nearby Lake Taneycomo.

A duck filled with 31 tourists capsized in rough waters and sank on Table Rock Lake in July 2018 – 17 people, including children, died. A terrifying video from a passenger on another boat showed “Stretch Duck 7” struggling in bad weather.

Boat operators entered the water during a severe thunderstorm warning. This boat was ultimately unable to handle the strong winds of the storm. Video and audio recovered from the boat by divers showed the lake was calm when the boat entered the water. But the weather suddenly turned violent. Within minutes, the boat sank.

The original duck boats were developed during World War II as a means of obtaining supplies and reinforcements for troops. After the war, they were modified for tourism. However, since 1999 the boats have been linked to dozens of deaths.

In May 1999, the duck Miss Majestic sank on Lake Hamilton near Hot Springs, Arkansas – 13 people died.

After this tragedy, the NTSB recommended the removal of canopies and side curtains on boats, which experts say acted as a “barrier to vertical escape.”

Stretch Duck 7, part of the fleet owned and operated under Branson’s “Ride the Ducks” franchise owned by Ripley Entertainment, still had its canopy.

Ripley suspended operations on Table Rock Lake and the remaining vehicles in the Branson Group fleet were sold to an Arkansas-based investment company.

The Branson Duck Tours group announcing the new attraction compared the design of the Hydra-Terra to that of the World War II DUKW on its website.

The group said the new boats meet all DOT and US Coast Guard regulations – while older boats have protections and exemptions from certain safety standards.

Blumenthal told KY3 that tours are expected to begin in late April or early May.

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