Duck boat captain in fatal capsizing indicted on 17 felony counts
12:13 PM, Nov 8, 2018
2:47 PM, Nov 8, 2018
The captain of a duck boat that capsized in July on a Missouri lake, killing 17 people, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with the wreck.
Kenneth Scott McKee, 51, faces 17 counts related to "acts of misconduct, negligence or inattention to duty," one for each victim, according to the indictment, which was announced Thursday by the US Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, Tim Garrison.
The violations are colloquially known as "seaman's manslaughter," Garrison said.
A federal grand jury found that McKee failed to properly assess incoming weather before and while he put the vessel in the water, entered the vessel on the water as severe weather approached, failed to instruct passengers to put on personal flotation devices and operated the duck boat in violation of its conditions and limitations, among other acts, according to the indictment.
Ripley Entertainment, which runs the duck boat tours called Ride the Ducks Branson, did not immediately respond Thursday CNN's requests for comment. McKee's attorney, J.R. Hobbs, confirmed to CNN he is reviewing the indictment against his client but is not making any additional comment regarding the allegations.
McKee is not in custody, Garrison said, adding that the charges announced Thursday are the first criminal indictments related to the incident. The US attorney would not say whether McKee has been cooperating with the probe. Hobbs said he is in the process of scheduling an initial court appearance by McKee.
Survivor Tia Coleman, whose husband, three children and five other relatives were killed in the duck boat wreck, commended Garrison as the indictments were announced.
"While nothing can ever ease the grief in my heart, I am grateful that the US Attorney's Office is fighting for justice for my family, and the other victims, and is committed to holding fully accountable all those responsible for this tragedy," she said in a statement.
In case of a conviction, each count against McKee carries possible prison time of up to 10 years and a fine of as much as $250,000.
Captain's judgment of weather examined
McKee's actions related to the day's weather also have been scrutinized by the National Transportation Safety Board, which in July noted, "The captain made a verbal reference to looking at the weather radar prior to the trip," citing video recorded on the boat.