Grand jury indicts captain of tourist boat in Missouri


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Charges have been filed against the captain of a Missouri tourist boat that sank and killed 17 people, including nine people from an Indiana family.

A federal indictment released Thursday charges 51-year-old Kenneth Scott McKee with 17 counts of misconduct, negligence or inattention to duty by a ship's officer, resulting in death.

The deaths occurred July 19 when an amphibious vessel known as a duck boat sank on Table Rock Lake near Branson after a sudden and severe storm rolled into southwest Missouri. The indictment alleges McKee didn't properly assess the weather.

The dead also included people from Missouri, Arkansas and Illinois, and five were children.

The company that operated the boats, Ripley Entertainment, suspended the operation after the accident.

The U.S. Coast Guard said in August that it found probable cause the accident resulted from McKee's "misconduct, negligence, or inattention to the duties."

An Indianapolis woman who lost her husband, three children and five other relatives when a tourist boat sank in Missouri says she's grateful that prosecutors have filed charges in the case.

Tia Coleman's family members were among 17 people who died after an amphibious vessel known as a duck boat sank on Table Rock Lake near Branson during a sudden storm in July. Coleman was among 14 survivors.

An indictment released Thursday charges the boat's captain, Kenneth Scott McKee, with 17 counts related to the deaths. Other victims were from Missouri, Arkansas and Illinois.

Coleman released a statement saying nothing can ease the grief in her heart, but that she appreciates federal prosecutors are "fighting for justice" and holding people responsible for the tragedy.

An attorney representing the Coleman family and several other victims says he's confident the investigation will go beyond McKee.

A prosecutor says the indictment of the captain of a Missouri tourist boat that sank and killed 17 people marks "the beginning but not the end" of a federal prosecution in the case.

U.S. Attorney Timothy Garrison announced on Thursday that 51-year-old Kenneth Scott McKee had been indicted on 17 counts related to the July deaths, which included nine members of an Indiana family.

Garrison said he couldn't comment on specifics of the investigation. But he said McKee was indicted because "the captain of the vessel always has a duty to operate the vessel in a safe manner."

McKee's attorney declined comment Thursday.

The duck boat sank in July at Table Rock Lake, near the southwest Missouri tourist town of Branson. Duck boats are amphibious vessels originally used by the military during World War II, but some have been refurbished for tourism.


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