Maritime Casualty News, July 2018

Missouri duck boat capsizes in storm, killing 17

Seventeen people died after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake near Branson, Mo., during a strong storm. Nine of the victims were from the same family.

The vessel, Stretch Duck 7, sank off the stern of the docked Showboat Branson Belle on the evening of July 19 after a squall with 65-mph winds caused swells on the typically calm lake. Video taken before the capsizing shows Stretch Duck 7 struggling to make way in the intense storm. Another duck boat made it back to shore safely.

The U.S. Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating the incident but are not close to determining the cause.

Salvage personnel raised the vessel on July 21 and turned it over to the NTSB for its investigation, the Coast Guard said in a news release.

Ripley Entertainment owns Ride the Ducks Branson, the company operating Stretch Duck 7. Ripley said it sends weather alerts to crew, but it wasn’t sure if the captain of the duck boat received the message.

Ride the Ducks Branson and similar companies operate amphibious sightseeing tours across the country. There have been numerous incidents involving these vessels over the years, including in 2015 in Seattle when a duck boat collided with a bus, killing five people. Five years earlier, a barge collided with a duck boat in Philadelphia, killing two people.

Coast Guard holds hearing on fatal Bouchard barge explosion

The Coast Guard convened a formal public hearing July 16 into the fatal explosion aboard the tank barge Bouchard No. 255 off Port Aransas, Texas, in October.

According to the Coast Guard, the two-week hearing will focus on the condition of the Bouchard Transportation barge before and at the time of the casualty. It also will explore the company’s culture, organizational structure and regulatory compliance. Two mariners died in the accident.

The National Transportation Safety Board also is participating in the hearing in addition to conducting its own investigation.

Former Bouchard captains and crew are among those expected to testify during the hearing. It’s not clear when the Coast Guard will issue a final report.

For more information, visit the Coast Guard’s dedicated hearing site,

Hawaiian tour boat hit by molten rock, injuring 12

At least 12 people were injured after their lava tour boat was hit by molten rock and flying debris off Hawaii’s Big Island.

The 49-passenger Hot Shot was operating in Kapoho Bay when lava flowing into the ocean exploded upon making contact with the water, according to a Coast Guard spokesman in Hawaii. Nine passengers and crew suffered minor injuries; three others on board sustained serious injuries, including a broken leg.

The Coast Guard established a safety zone around Kapoho Bay lava flows in March 2017 and later made the zone permanent. For most operators, the restricted distance is 300 meters, although the Coast Guard said some operators carrying required safety equipment have permission to come as close as 50 meters.

It’s not clear how far Hot Shot was from the lava when the incident occurred. In a video, passengers are seen marveling over the flow when a dark cloud suddenly erupts from the water. Passengers screamed as the vessel was pelted with molten rock.

Lava flows on the island of Hawaii have attracted tourists and tour vessels going back at least 20 years, the Coast Guard said. After the accident, Hot Shot returned to Hilo where injured passengers received treatment.

Casualty flashback: July 1931

All 12 crewmembers escaped from a steam freighter that sank near The Dalles, Ore., during heavy weather on the Columbia River.

According to news accounts from the time, the freighter Cowlitz was carrying 100 tons of wheat bound from The Dalles to Portland when a strong storm battered the vessel shortly after departure. The captain, J.W. Exon, reported that a swell entered the engine room.

Exon tried to beach the disabled steamer, but cargo abruptly shifted and the vessel capsized, the Morning Oregonian reported at the time. Exon praised his nephew, George Kitzmiller, for saving his life during the chaotic minutes after the vessel went down.

Other vessels operating nearby came to the aid of overboard crew, most of whom did not have life jackets. Although initial reports indicated a man drowned in the incident, crew later said he got off the vessel before the accident.

Exon told the newspaper that river conditions during the storm were the worst he’d encountered during 45 years on the Columbia. He estimated the wind-driven breakers were 8 to 10 feet high.

Cowlitz sank in about 60 feet of water, and Exon suggested a salvage would be impossible at those depths.

By Professional Mariner Staff