I’ve thought about taking a Duck boat ride and I’m glad I passed.
Thirty-one people including 29 passengers had boarded the Duck boat ride vehicle for a joy ride on Table Rock Lake outside Branson, Mo., last week. It became the last ride that 17 of the passengers would ever make.
Torrential weather turned the lake into a rollercoaster ride that became more than the Duck boat could handle. Media clips have shown the stress the World War II type amphibious vehicle and people were under. The raging lake overtook them sending many of them to their watery graves.
We are filled with horror, grief and have wailed about how such a tragedy happened? Where was the precaution? Where were the lifejackets? Why do these stupid boats have canopies on them? Mostly we have asked in bewilderment, “Why were they out in that perilous storm?” Where was the sound mind of management? Where were the instincts of the driver? And, what about the commonsense of the people to have delayed their ride until better weather?
Tourist attractions every summer are under pressure to make as much as they can while they can. Kids go back to school in August and so do the family dollars. Management pushes employees to do all they can, as each day’s receipts are vital to the yearly budget. On the same token, tourists crowd places like Branson. Vacationers are there usually a short time and crowd venues that offer rides and shows.
State agencies cannot be everywhere and monitor every activity but the Branson Duck incident cries out for better surveillance and stricter rules at such places and such providers of entertainment. No one in Missouri wants to step up and claim they were in charge of the oversight of this vehicle. The U.S. Coast Guard has said that it sets limited parameters on the vessel such as requiring a certificate of inspection and authorizing routes but after that has little involvement with them. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulates their travel on the road but hasn’t had much to say in regards to this latest disaster or banning them from the highways.
Hindsight is always better and I doubt if too many people will board Duck boat rides the rest of this summer. Yet, over and again tourist type attractions have the ability to end in disaster. About 20 years ago the duck boat named the Miss Majestic sunk to the bottom of a Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, Ark., killing 13 people. In 2015 five students were killed in a duck boat collision with a bus in Seattle. There have been two incidents in Philadelphia and one in Boston were 28-year-old Allison Warmuth was fatally run over by a duck boat in April 2016.
Vacationers have to make common sense calls. Someone has to stop and ask, “Is this ride safe?” Or consider that, “Maybe the weather conditions are not conducive to duck riding, zip lining or parasailing over the ocean today.” Every day somewhere, someone will be hurt doing something trying to have fun. People will be killed driving cars and riding airplanes. This is one of the reasons we have laws and rules in regards to trains, planes and automobiles. They can be very dangerous when not used with good judgment.
The Duck boat ride in Branson was another tragic lesson in serious bad judgment.
Glenn Mollette is the author of 12 books. His column is read in 50 states.