• Sunken Branson duck boat had a video recorder. Officials have it, but aren't sure if it works

    By: USA Today

    Updated:

    Federal officials hope a video recorder recovered from a sunken duck boat can provide information about the minutes leading up to the sinking that killed 17 on Table Rock Lake on Thursday.

    The device headed to a National Transportation Safety Board lab in Washington, D.C., but it's still unclear whether the recorder was working at the time of the fatal capsizing or whether any of its data can be retrieved.

    Keith Holloway, an NTSB spokesman, said it was also unclear whether the Branson duck boat's video-recording device had any audio capabilities. The device was recovered by divers, a team of which had been searching a cove on Table Rock Lake to locate the boat and the bodies of the deceased.

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    Investigators have also interviewed some of the survivors, Holloway said, as well as people on another duck boat that was on the lake at the same time but managed to avoid swamping and crashing.

    Holloway also said the NTSB is asking for anyone who witnessed or recorded the sinking to contact federal officials at witness@ntsb.gov as investigators seek a more comprehensive understanding of what led to the duck boat's demise.

    The boat sank Thursday evening as a thunderstorm brought near-hurricane-strength winds to Table Rock Lake. Search, rescue and recovery operations began shortly afterward and continued through Friday. By then, officials had determined that 17 of the 31 passengers on the duck boat perished, and divers had found the duck at the bottom of the lake.

    Chris O'Neil, also an NTSB spokesman, said the agency's fieldwork generally takes a week to 10 days, though that could be extended if there is difficulty recovering the sunken duck.

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    "Salvage is not our purview," he said, referring questions about the raising of the duck to the Coast Guard and the owners of the Ride the Ducks Branson operation, Ripley Entertainment.

    In addition to interviews, O'Neil said the NTSB was gathering records about the duck's maintenance, operation, and previous Coast Guard inspections. The duck boats are inspected and certified by the Coast Guard, and any modifications to the vehicle require Coast Guard approval, according to O'Neil. 

    Part of the NTSB's investigation will consider whether any damage to the duck occurred as a result of the crash or during the salvage process. 

    Officials on scene had estimated the duck could be raised Monday.

    Follow Will Schmitt on Twitter: @ws_missouri

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