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Criminal charges against a Missouri duck boat captain involved in the 2018 crash that killed 17 people could soon be tossed — because the lake isn’t covered under federal law.
Missouri federal magistrate Judge David Rush made the recommendation in a Friday ruling, saying the case should be handled by state court instead because of the technicality.
He said Table Rock Lake, where one of the country’s worst boating accidents occurred, is not considered a “navigable waterway” under federal admiralty law.
“If Defendants are to be prosecuted for the tragedy on Table Rock Lake, the law requires that the prosecution be handled at the state level, and not in federal court,” Rush wrote.
Captain Kenneth Scott McKee was accused of steering the Ride the Ducks boat onto Table Rock Lake near Branson on July 19, 2018, during a fierce thunderstorm that included 70-mph wind gusts and over 3-foot waves.
Prosecutors alleged McKee, who had 18 years as a duck boat captain, “failed to properly assess the nature of the severe weather” and didn’t order passengers to put on life vests when the conditions worsened.
2 MORE WORKERS INDICTED IN MISSOURI DUCK BOAT DISASTER THAT KILLED 17
Thirty-one people were on board when the boat sank, killing 17, including nine members from the same family.
McKee, Ride the Ducks Branson general manager Curtis Lanham and manager-on-duty Charles Baltzell were indicted on 47 counts ranging from what’s known as “seaman’s manslaughter” to misconduct.
Rush’s recommendation is pending approval by the judge overseeing the case. A hearing has not been set.
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Ripley Entertainment, which operates the Ride the Ducks boats, has reached settlements in numerous civil lawsuits stemming from the disaster, the Springfield News-Leader reported last year.
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