It’s been about 4 months since the deadly duck boat sinking and Kenneth Scott McKee, the captain of the vessel, was charged on Thursday with misconduct and negligence.
On July 19, the duck boat capsized during a storm. It was one of the deadliest duck boat incidents in decades, killing 17 people between the ages of 1 and 76, including nine members from one family.
“Each of the 17 counts in this indictment represents a life that was lost when Stretch Duck 7 sank while being piloted by Mr. McKee,” Tim Garrison, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, said during a news conference according to The Washington Post.
If convicted, McKee faces up to 10 years in prison for each count.
McKee is accused of failing to properly asses the weather that day, and ignoring storm warnings when he took the duck boat out on to Table Rock Lake near Branson, Mo.
When the high winds and lightning began to threaten the boat, McKee is accused of not immediately heading for the shore. When the boat’s bilge alarm went off, as a warning that the vessel was in danger of sinking, McKee is accused of failing to urge passengers to put on life jackets and also failed to prepare to abandon the duck boat.
Ripley Entertainment, which owns Ride the Ducks Branson, is currently facing several lawsuits, including one from the family of Tia Coleman, who lost her husband, three children, parents-in-law and other relatives in the incident. Only Coleman and her 13-year-old nephew survived.
“I couldn’t hear screams, it felt like I was out there on my own,” Coleman recalled back in July. “And I was yelling, screaming and finally, I said, ‘Lord, just let me die, let me die, I can’t keep drowning, I just can’t keep drowning.’ And then I just let go.”
Coleman said that the captain of the duck boat had told them that they did not need life jackets.
The relatives of other victims have also filed lawsuits.