Judge recommends criminal count dismissal in duck boat case

A federal magistrate judge has recommended that criminal charges be dismissed against three men indicted over a duck boat sinking on a Missouri lake that killed 17 people two summers ago, including nine members of an Indianapolis family.

U.S. Magistrate Judge David P. Rush of the District Court for the Western District of Missouri concluded Friday that charges should be dismissed because Table Rock Lake, where the boat sank in a storm, is not considered a navigable waterway under admiralty law, KCUR reports.

A 47-count indictment unsealed in June 2019 accused Curtis Lanham, the general manager of the boat’s operator, Ride the Ducks Branson, and Charles Baltzell, the manager on duty that day, with a variety of neglect and misconduct charges. An earlier indictment charged the boat’s captain, Scott McKee, with failure to properly assess incoming weather before launching the boat and not telling passengers to use flotation devices as weather conditions worsened.

Tom Bath and Tricia Bath, the husband and wife lawyers who represented Lanham, said in an email that the boat’s sinking was “a terrible tragedy.”

But they said they believed it “was caused by a once in a lifetime storm and not as a result of actions or the failure to act on the part of Curtis or any other employees.”

The owners of the boat earlier this year reached settlements in civil lawsuits filed on behalf of those who died.

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