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Kenneth McKee piloted the vessel involved in the July 2018 accident.
SBJ file
Kenneth McKee piloted the vessel involved in the July 2018 accident.

Charges filed against Ride the Ducks employees

Posted online

Last edited 11:46 a.m., July 19, 2021

The offices of Stone County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Selby and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed charges against employees involved in the Ride the Ducks Branson accident three years ago.

Kenneth McKee, Charles Baltzell and Curtis Lanham are facing felony charges of first-degree involuntary manslaughter, according to a news release. McKee additionally is looking at counts of first-degree endangering the welfare of a child.

In all, a combined 63 charges were filed against the three defendants.

The probable cause statement for the charges alleges McKee failed to exercise his duties as the vessel's captain by entering the lake during a severe thunderstorm warning. The statement alleges Baltzell as operations supervisor and Curtis Lanham as general manager failed to communicate weather conditions and cease operations.

Seventeen people were killed in the July 19, 2018, accident involving the amphibious vehicle. The vessel capsized on Table Rock Lake amid a severe storm. The attraction has since shut down and has never reopened.

Ride the Ducks Branson operator Ripley Entertainment Inc. worked through at least 30 settlements related to the accident, according to past reporting.

The amphibious vehicle industry also has faced legislative scrutiny in the wake of the accident, including work from U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley.

Hawley issued this statement on July 19, the third anniversary of the accident: “As we reflect on this entirely preventable accident, we must honor those lost by supporting common-sense legislation to ensure this never happens again. For decades Congress has failed to update safety standards for duck boats and I remain committed to seeing updated standards become law.”

Originally passed in 2020, the Duck Boat Safety Enhancement Act was reintroduced earlier this year.

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