What Went Wrong? Table Rock Lake Accident Ride the Ducks Branson, MO

What Went Wrong? Table Rock Lake Accident Ride the Ducks Branson, MO


The purpose of this blog covering some of the moments before, during and after the tragic accident of the Branson, MO’s Ride The Ducks is to hopefully encourage and bring an awareness to what seems to be an ongoing issue with mother nature — never underestimate mother nature. Please note in respect to the families and friends, we will not be posting the videos of the actual tragic accident. This blog will, however, include the salvage operation.


The violent storm behind the duck boat tragedy was well-predicted & warned, not an ‘out of nowhere’ storm as many had/have been saying.

At 11:20 a.m., a Severe Thunderstorm Watch was issued for all of southwest Missouri. Then as the storms approached Branson, a Severe Thunderstorm Warning was issued at 6:32 p.m. by the National Weather Service in Springfield, which covered both Branson and Table Rock.

Numerous reports of high winds and damage were coming in along the leading edge of the storms – including a 75 mile per hour wind gust at Springfield Regional Airport.

The dark leading edge of the storm reached Table Rock Lake at 7 p.m., spreading high winds from north to south down the length of the lake. Shortly thereafter, the duck boat was swamped by the pounding waves & winds and as a result, never made it out of the water.

Counties to the northwest of the Branson area were issued thunderstorm warnings at 5:45 p.m. — more than an hour before the boat sank. The Branson area was placed under a severe thunderstorm warning 6:32 p.m. Radar shows the first wind gusts arriving at the lake ahead of the storm, at 6:59 p.m. Authorities received the first 911 call about the boat’s sinking at 7:09 p.m

In total, there was 32 minutes of warning ahead of the storms and several hours of heads-up given by the watch.

Mrs. Tia Coleman, a passenger on the boat who was sitting near the front, told reporters Saturday in a live interview that passengers were told a storm was coming before going out on the water. She further said when the boat first got on the water, it did not look cloudy.

Mrs. Coleman also said the captain of the boat told passengers, “Don’t worry about grabbing the life jackets — you won’t need them.” She then added by the time it was clear life jackets were needed, “it was too late.”

This tour lasts around 70 minutes, with about half on land and half on water, from what the company’s website says.

There was two Ride The Ducks on the lake at the time the storm hit, of the one Duck that did make it out safe from the lake.

Video of both the battered vessels were seen struggling against not just the winds but the massive waves. Unconfirmed reports have mentioned that waves in some areas were 3-4ft with possible 9 ft waves. Again unconfirmed but with the vessel style that the Ride The Ducks were, it was never designed to be in such a situation.

The boat sank 40 feet and then rolled to an area 80 feet deep, Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader said.

Many want to know why the vessel changed the route it took that day, leaving much to thinking the company was aware of the soon impacting weather and wanted to proceed forward to ensure the tour was completed. Ex-Ride the Ducks workers say its captain’s final call to go out on Table Rock Lake. Much like in the airline industry where the “Captain” has the final word and decision.

Passengers as in the airlines are trusting that those in charge will get them safely from point A to point B, however, this should bring awareness that it should also still be our responsibility to be aware of what’s going on around us. This includes the weather and knowing its impacts.

Many might not understand exactly how to read a radar image and often just assume that the pretty bright colors are all that’s needed to know, however, there is much more to it than that and its pretty simple to know the basics of other areas to watch out for.

Almost every app on the market Free or Pay that has a radar feature will give you a “signature” (a view/showing) of what we call a gust front or also known as an outflow boundary. These are fast-moving downward winds that lead a thunderstorm or a line of storms (rushes ahead). On radar, it will appear as a very thin line often overlooked by many, however, these winds vary but often can & will result in damage with the more stronger storms.

Based on radar, winds on the lake at around the time the vessel was doomed, were marked at 89 MPH

Many voiced their thoughts and strong opinions on this matter!

Storm Chaser and Local of Branson, MO posted this:

What really strikes home is those cars left in the parking lot that belongs to those that never made it back…


Reporting for this story is hard & emotional for anyone, Watch local news anchors of KY3 choke up as the names and ages were released


We ask ourselves or respond by saying what we would have done if we were there. It’s in our nature for us to immediately respond with swift action and often times in some scenarios a super strength takes over for some. These are everyday people, who out of nowhere risk their lives for others. One particular story we found is very moving…

Buddy Merrick Writes:

Here’s a part of the Branson Ducks story you should know:

While the duck boat was capsizing, David Griffin was working a part-time job as a waiter on the Showboat. For 4 years, he performed on the Showboat’s stage and currently is a star singer with the Clay Cooper Experience in Branson. Watching the tragedy unfold, David took off his waiter’s apron, called on a fellow employee and JUMPED INTO THE WATER to help. At 75 MPH, those swells would make it hard to survive, much less swim or help someone else. David swam to a woman who was face down in the water and struggling to stay afloat, managed to hold her up for 25 minutes. He had even forgotten to remove his shoes!! The woman did not make it. Before he was lifted by a pontoon boat, David helped move two more people out of the water. David did not rescue anyone who lived. But the Branson singer and waiter tried!! BTW, only two people from the Branson Bell jumped into the treacherous waters, David and his pal. Despite how he thought “a half-dozen times” that he, too, was going to die, David made it to shore and the dock of the Branson Belle, in time to console the Duck Captain, who was in a wheelchair.
“You did all you could,” he told him.
I thought it is important that you know what David did yesterday! David’s story should be told.
David is a Christian and a former member of Parkside in Denison



The recovery took place just after 9 am on Monday, July 23, 2018. The world watched as crews worked diligently to raise the vessel from the bottom of the lake (Around 80 feet deep).

The VERY first image we had seen as it was pulled up:

You can watch the Pre-Recorded LIVE feed here!

Drone Video Of The Recovery!

Ride The Duck pulled out of the water!

MEMORIAL – Family/Friends & Comunity

Although the main impact is the families and friends, Branson and the surrounding communities also feel the impacts. Many have either been on the ride or have passed them while on the lake or on the road. For many, if not most who live in or near the area have had the thought “This could have been my family”.

The Ride the Ducks Branson has offered to pay for all related medical bills and funeral expenses.

The company posted the offer on its Facebook page:

“We remain deeply saddened by the tragic accident that occurred at Ride the Ducks Branson. Our focus from the start has been on the guests, families, and employees who were affected last Thursday. Today, we continue to focus our efforts on the families. We are offering to pay for all related medical bills and funeral expenses, return all personal items from the rescue scene, and assist with any related travel or accommodations that will help the families in their time of need.”

Memorial Service!

We Remeber Those Who Were Lost!


Simple answer yes!

Now without going into the logistics and details on what the company could have changed or done such as removing the top of the ride or delaying the ride on the lake etc. as an example, the main preventable issue is better awareness of weather.

Often more times than other many either ignore the warnings or just don’t pay enough attention to the weather. We always hear the old saying “It never gets bad here”, “It will miss us”, or “This is just weather hype”. Though we can understand these responses as many areas in southwest Missouri will have countless stories of how storms nearly always split around some areas etc. — This also includes areas nationwide as well.

But the truth of the matter is that warnings are issued for a reason… It’s for YOUR safety! Local news and NWS Offices ALWAYS say, When thunder roars go indoors. If you’re close enough to hear the thunder then you are close enough to get stuck by lightning or Turn Around – Don’t Drown. Although it can be frustrating especially for Missourians and surrounding states for warnings or maybe watches to be issued only for you to get the weak side of the storms, storms just nearly fall apart, or never really develope.

Mother nature is a force not to be reckoned with, That’s why there are warnings, watches, advisories etc. issued for all weather elements.

We advise & ask ANY coordinators of park activities and ride owners to evaluate their safety protocols to avoid another tragic accident. While working at the airport for nearly 10 years, we had strict guidelines and radius we had to follow. Such as 25 miles, 15 miles, 10 miles, 5 miles that each had their own rules and regulations pending on the operation(s).


Pay attention to the weather before heading out to your activities for the day! Most all new phones will now alert you of impending weather, if your phone buzzes/goes off by a weather alert then please take proper precautions. If you have a phone that can handle a radar app, then download one that you can reference too for details. Be weather savvy, if you know the weather is coming or possible storms to develop and you are going to be at an activity, then please have a plan, ask officials what their protocol is for severe weather if you have concerns and watch the sky. Always listen to your inner intuition, If something doesn’t seem or feel right then consider the options to make it feel right or safe!



In conclusion, please ALWAYS listen to any type of weather warnings or watches that you might fall under as it could save your life.

LiveStormChasers would like to thank Tyler Schlitt and Brandon Munson from Branson Weather for helping with this article!