KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Criminal charges have been filed in the fatal 2018 duck boat incident that claimed the lives of 17 people in Branson, Missouri. Nine of the victims were from Indianapolis.
Three "Ride the Ducks" employees — Kenneth Scott McKee, Charles Baltzell, and Curtis Lanham — face involuntary manslaughter charges tied to the deaths of all 17 individuals who died in the July 19, 2018 incident.
Stone County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Selby and the Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced the charges on Friday. In total, 63 charges were filed against the three employees.
Captain Scott McKee is charged with 17 counts of first-degree involuntary manslaughter (Class C felony), five counts of endangering the welfare of a child (Class A felony) and seven counts of first-degree endangering the welfare of a child (Class D felony).
McKee was operating the duck boat when it entered Table Rock Lake during a severe thunderstorm warning and eventually took on water and sunk.
Operations supervisor Charles Baltzell was charged with 17 counts of first-degree involuntary manslaughter for failing to communicate conditions and cease operations.
For the same reason, general manager Curtis Lanham was also charged with 17 counts of first-degree involuntary manslaughter.
In December, a federal judge had dismissed neglect and misconduct charges against the three employees.
Soon thereafter, a survivor of the duck boat incident, Tia Coleman of Indianapolis, urged the Missouri State Attorney General to pursue criminal charges in the case.
“What does it say about us as a society if those who put profits over passenger safety can get away with their criminal acts? And what does it say if our Congress between now and year’s end cannot find it in its heart to pass the pending, non-partisan duck boat safety act that can prevent the loss of more innocent lives?” Coleman stated in a release.
All nine of the duck boat victims from Indianapolis were members of Coleman's family. The only other survivor in her family was her nephew, Donovan Coleman.
Through her attorney, Coleman said her prayers have been answered following the charging announcement. "I'm so hopeful that we are one major step closer to justice for all those that perished, and to preventing that what happened to them from ever happening again," she said.
"Tia Coleman believes deeply in our justice system, and she still mourns the loss of her beloved husband, Glenn, and their babies; Arya,1; Evan, 7, and Reece, 9," said attorney Robert J. Mongeluzzi. "She never lost faith in the Missouri Attorney General, who we urged on her behalf to undertake this prosecution, to pursue state charges for the outrageous conduct that took her beautiful family from her."
Since the 2018 boating incident, two federal laws have been introduced to improve the safety of duck boats. The proposed laws include requiring life jackets and making sure all duck boats are more buoyant. The bill would also require canopies that make it easier for passengers to escape in case of an emergency.