SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A federal magistrate judge has recommended that criminal charges be dismissed against three men indicted over a duck-boat sinking on a Missouri lake that killed 17 people two summers ago.
U.S. Magistrate Judge David Rush concluded Friday charges should be dismissed because Table Rock Lake near Branson, where the boat sank in a storm July 19, 2018, isn't considered a navigable waterway under admiralty law, KCUR reports.
A 47-count indictment unsealed in June 2019 accused Curtis Lanham, the general manager of the boat's operator, Ride the Ducks Branson, and Charles Baltzell, the manager on duty that day, of neglect and misconduct charges.
An earlier indictment charged the boat's captain, Scott McKee, with failure to properly assess incoming weather before launching the boat and not telling passengers to use flotation devices as weather conditions worsened.
Tom Bath and Tricia Bath, the husband and wife lawyers who represented Lanham, said the boat's sinking was "a terrible tragedy." But they said they believed it "was caused by a once in a lifetime storm and not as a result of actions or the failure to act on the part of Curtis or any other employees."
Two Arkansans, Steve Smith, 53, and his 15-year-old son Lance, both of Osceola, were among those who died when the tour boat sank. Steve Smith's daughter, Loren, who was 14 at the time, was among the 14 survivors.