Branson mourns 17 killed in sinking of packed duck boat
The country-and-western tourist town of Branson, Mo., mourned Friday for more than a dozen sightseers who were killed when a duck boat capsized and sank in stormy weather in the deadliest such accident in almost two decades.
Divers found four more bodies in Table Rock Lake, bringing the death toll to 17, including nine people from the same family and the crew member who was steering the amphibious vessel. In their initial assessment, authorities blamed thunderstorms and winds that approached hurricane strength.
“Branson is a city full of smiles,” Mayor Karen Best said. “We have so much fun here. But today we are grieving and crying.”
Trisha Ayers was among the mourners who stopped to pay their respects at a parked car that was covered with flowers because it was believed to belong to a dead tourist.
Ayers said she understood how the boat got caught on the lake because the weather Thursday evening changed in 10 minutes from sunshine to gale-force winds that bent traffic signs.
The risk of heavy weather was apparent hours before the boat left shore.
The weather service station in Springfield, about 40 miles north of Branson, issued a severe thunderstorm watch for its immediate area Thursday, saying conditions were ripe for winds of 70 mph. It followed up at 6:32 p.m. with a severe thunderstorm warning. The boat went down about 40 minutes later, shortly after 7 p.m.
At least two children and two adults were still hospitalized Friday afternoon. Authorities did not publicly identify the dead but said they included a 1-year-old child.