UPDATE: Since the original publishing of this story, Ripley Entertainment has issued a statement in response. You can read that statement in full below.
BRANSON, Mo.– The former General Manager and the former Operations Supervisor of Ride the Ducks Branson have both been indicted on 17 counts of misconduct and neglect. Similar charges were pressed against the captain of Stretch Duck 7, the duck boat that sank on Table Rock Lake back in July of 2018.
36-year-old Curtis Lanham of Galena, the former General Manager of Ride the Ducks, is charged with “17 felony counts of misconduct and neglect by an executive officer of the corporate charterer/owner,” according to a statement released by the office of Timothy Garrison, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri.
76-year-old Charles Baltzell of Kirbyville, the former Operations Supervisor, has been added to the 17 counts of misconduct and negligence by a vessel captain, resulting in the death of another person that already face Stretch Duck 7’s captain, Kenneth Scott McKee.
In relation to those charges facing McKee, Baltzell is considered an “aider and abettor of misconduct and neglect by a vessel captain”.
The U.S. Attorney’s office says Baltzell was, “responsible for ensuring the duck boat tours ran in sequence and acted as a dispatcher through the use of radio and other communications methods while the duck boat tours were ongoing.”
Garrison’s office is also arguing Baltzell failed to assess weather conditions leading up to the deployment of Stretch Duck 7.
As for Lanham, the U.S. Attorney claims the Ride the Ducks GM “allowed McKee, Baltzell, and others to engage in neglect, misconduct, and violation of law.”
The release from Garrison’s office goes on to claim Lanham would created a work atmosphere that hindered those tasked with watching the weather before a Ride the Ducks tour from doing so.
“Lanham allegedly neglected to properly assess incoming weather and negligently allowed McKee to enter the vessel on the water when there was lightning and severe weather approaching the area,” the release reads.
Each of the 17 felony charges facing McKee, Lanham, and Baltzell, represents a person that died on Stretch Duck 7 in 2018.
The three are each facing 13 misdemeanor counts, one for each of the surviving passengers aboard Stretch Duck 7 that day, as well.
In response, Ripley Entertainment issued this statement:
We continue to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and other agencies as they investigate the facts surrounding the unprecedented storm and resulting accident on Table Rock Lake that occurred last July.– Suzanne Smagala-Potts, Public Relations Manager for Ripley Entertainment
We are committed to doing everything we can to help and support the community of Branson and those impacted by this accident. While the United States Attorney has decided to bring criminal charges as a result of the accident, all persons charged are entitled to a strong presumption of innocence until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. We have and will continue to offer support for all of our employees as this process moves forward.
From the day of the accident, we have worked with our partners in the community to help the victims and all those affected by the tragedy. While we know lives lost cannot be replaced, we have worked with the victims and their families and have reached settlement agreements with many individuals and families, and we continue to work with others.”