KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The captain of the Branson Duck Boat that sank and two other crew members were charged with 63 felony counts Friday.
Each was charged with 17 counts of first-degree involuntary manslaughter against the 17 people who died on Table Rock Lake nearly three years ago.
Among the victims, a couple from Higginsville, Bill and Jan Bright. Bill Bright’s sister said the fees would have been charged a long time ago and she believes they are in line with the choices duck boat operators made that day.
Brights is celebrating its 45th anniversary in Branson and plans to go on Duck boats. Bill’s sister Karen plans to join them after work the next day.
“Usually it’s the three of us, my brother would joke because I would make sure we had vacations together and we made those memories.”
As she went to work, she remembered her boss asking for a moment of silence for the Branson victims.
“Then I asked what happened and in those 30 seconds she used to describe what happened my world fell apart,” Abbott said.
Brights, 10 other adults and 5 children were killed when waves from a 70 mph storm swept the boat before it could return to shore.
An affidavit filed by the Missouri State Highway Patrol states that Captain Kenneth Scott McKee failed to discharge his duties and responsibilities while on the lake with severe thunderstorm warnings and without a man on. float. He also faces 12 counts of endangering a child.
Operations Supervisor Charles Baltzell and Superintendent Curtis Lanham were also charged with 17 counts of involuntary manslaughter for failing to report weather conditions and shutting down operations during severe thunderstorm warnings.
Abbott said: “When you see the boat going through the water and you see what the water looks like to me, the picture is so much more alive than the words.
A civil lawsuit accuses operators of trying to weather the storm to avoid having to issue refunds. Abbott said while the allegations are reasonable, they cannot undo the duck boat tragedy.
“There’s nothing that brings them back that we can’t say or do or press charges or lawyers or courts nothing can make it easier. They are gone, all avoidable but not so. We just got on with life,” said Abbott.
A federal judge earlier dismissed the charges against all three and said it was a matter for state courts. Captain McKee’s lawyers said Friday he will plead not guilty and fight the charges.