Rep. Long: Possible Congressional Action After Table Rock Lake Tragedy

Posted on July 23, 2018 21:54 pm CDT

By Missourinet,

A Missouri congressman who represents Branson and Table Rock Lake says Congress must do whatever is needed to try to prevent future tragedies like the deadly boating incident Thursday evening in his district.

17 people were killed when a "Ride the Ducks" amphibious vehicle capsized and sank during a severe thunderstorm.

U.S. Rep. Billy Long, R-Springfield, says the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will conduct a thorough investigation.

"We've got to do whatever we can to prevent anything similar to this happening if at all possible," Long says.

Long says there were 80-mile-per-hour winds and five-foot swells on Table Rock Lake during the storm, adding that it's "something none of us had ever seen from the time that the lake filled."

Long, who serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee in Washington, hopes there won't be any more amphibious duck boats going out on the water until officials can ensure that passengers are safe.

The "duck boats" were first used during World War II.

"I did speak to a friend of mine from Arkansas and he reminded me that in 1999, there was a very similar boat duck accident on Lake Hamilton that took 13 lives," says Long.

Fox News reports 39 people have died in duck boat incidents since 1999, including the 17 who were killed Thursday evening on Table Rock Lake.

Congressman Long, who's not prepared to call for hearings, says it's important to have a thorough NTSB investigation.

He says requiring passengers to wear life jackets is something that could be discussed.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) is pledging to examine legislative solutions to increase safety on amphibious vehicles. She also praises the cooperation of the two federal agencies investigating the incident.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt (R) describes the deadly incident as a "tragedy that never should have happened." Blunt says he's ready to "pursue whatever action is necessary" to prevent a future tragedy.

Senators McCaskill and Blunt both traveled to Branson on Friday.

Congressman Long has been in contact with the White House and with the NTSB.

Long tells Missourinet he's also been in contact with Branson Mayor Karen Best.

"I've offered the full support of my entire staff in the district and in Washington to the mayor, and anything that she needs she will have," Long says.

The congressman says the entire southwest Missouri community is in mourning. He praises first responders and divers.

Mayor Best says their lives "were forever changed" on Thursday.

A memorial service is scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 3 at College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout.

The college and city of Branson will host the service, to memorialize and pray for the 17 victims. The service will also include special music.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) says multiple investigations are underway into Thursday's incident.

Hawley says the NTSB and the Coast Guard are handling the investigation into the sinking of the vessel itself. He says the Missouri State Highway Patrol is overseeing the investigation into the circumstances that led to the tragedy.

Hawley briefed reporters Saturday at the MSHP Command Center in Branson. He's also "strongly encouraging" the owners of "Ride the Ducks" to cooperate with the Highway Patrol's investigation.

The "Springfield News-Leader" reports Ride the Ducks Branson was purchased in 2017 by Ripley Entertainment.

The Stone County Sheriff's office released the names of the 17 victims on Friday.

Nine victims are from Indiana, and five are from Missouri, including Bob Williams of Branson.

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