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U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison in November 2018 announces an indictment against a former Ride the Ducks captain.
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U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison in November 2018 announces an indictment against a former Ride the Ducks captain.

Garrison’s office levies more charges against Ripley employees

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U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison added two other Ripley Entertainment Inc. employees to an indictment announced late last year involving the company’s Ride the Ducks Branson division.

Curtis Lanham, 36, of Galena, and Charles Baltzell, 76, of Kirbyville, were charged in a 47-count superseding indictment. The indictment includes the original charges against Kenneth McKee, 51, of Verona, and replaces the November 2018 court filing, according to a news release from the office of Garrison, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri.

McKee served as the captain for the Ride the Ducks vessel that capsized amid severe weather in summer 2018, killing 17 people on board. Lanham was general manager of Ride the Ducks Branson, and Baltzell was the company’s operations supervisor.

All three men face charges of misconduct and negligence that led to the passengers’ deaths. The indictment also includes misdemeanor counts for the endangerment of the 13 passengers who survived the accident, according to the release.

An 18-year duck boat captain, McKee allegedly failed to assess incoming severe weather patterns; direct the vessel to shore as weather worsened; instruct passengers to put on their life jackets; keep the vessel’s side curtains from lowering, an act that created a barrier over its emergency exits; and tell the passengers to abandon ship.

Baltzell allegedly directed and allowed McKee to operate the boat in violation of the vessel’s Coast Guard-issued certificate of inspection; failed to communicate to McKee the severe nature of the weather; and did not monitor radio communications properly, according to the release.

Lanham allegedly allowed McKee, Baltzell and others to engage in neglectful misconduct. He’s also accused of neglecting to establish proper training for weather monitoring and creating a work atmosphere that confused workers on their duties, Garrison’s office said.

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