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BRANSON NEWS: Three years after an amphibious duck boat sank on Table Rock Lake, killing 17 people onboard, a new duck boat company is planning an operation in Branson.Earlier this month, a group called Branson Duck Tours posted on its Facebook page that it would be launching a “newer and safer” amphibious boat tour in Branson this coming spring.Jaredan Braal, who described himself as the owner and operations manager of Branson Duck Tours, said his company will use tourist vessels that are much different and more modern than the Word War II-era DUKW boat operated by Ripley Entertainment that sank during a fast-moving storm on Table Rock Lake in July 2018 — the last time duck boats operated in the area.Braal said duck boat tours are part of Branson’s history going back decades. He said he is heartbroken over the 2018 tragedy but still feels like an improved duck boat operation could have a place in the city.”We think there’s a great opportunity to bring tours back in a better and safer way,” Braal said.Branson Duck Tours posted on its Facebook page that its vessel, the Hydra-Terra, has proven to be “unsinkable” by the U.S. Coast Guard because of its “positive-buoyancy foam-filled compartments.”Previous: Criminal counts dismissed in Missouri duck boat deathsLieutenant (junior grade) Sondra-Kay Kneen with the U.S. Coast Guard said that for a passenger vessel to be Coast Guard-approved (like the Hydra-Terra is) it must meet a set of requirements related to things like stability, fire safety and lifesaving equipment, but the agency would not certify any vessel as “unsinkable.”Andrew Duffy, a Philadelphia-based lawyer whose firm represented several victims of the Table Rock Lake sinking and other duck-boat related deaths across the country, said it is insensitive to people like his clients (which include an Indianapolis woman who lost nine family members in the 2018 sinking) to bring a duck boat operation back to the Branson area this quickly.”I think Table Rock Lake should never see a duck boat operation again,” Duffy said. “I think it’s insensitive to bring them back soon and basically run duck boats and have people basically riding over the watery graves of 17 wonderful souls.”Duffy said he has major problems with the safety of duck boats in general, but he did acknowledge the Hydra-Terra vessel appears to be much safer than the World War II remnant duck boat that sank on the lake in 2018.However, Duffy said, the Hydra-Terra does not solve all of the problems that the World War II-era vessels had.Through its investigating, the National Transportation Safety Board decided there were two major flaws with the older-style duck boats: they lacked reserve buoyancy and the overhead canopy trapped people when the vessels sank.From 2019: After Table Rock Lake tragedy, NTSB again recommends changes to duck boatsDuffy said the Hydra-Terra purports to solve that first issue of buoyancy, but the Hydra-Terra still has a canopy.Braal, owner of the new Branson Duck Tours company, said the canopy would not be an issue because his vessels will not sink, plus they are designed to provide more space between the wall and the canopy to make it easier to escape in an emergency situation. Duffy pushed back about the “unsinkable” claim — adding that the same thing was said about the Titanic more than 100 years ago.Legislation sponsored by Sen. Josh Hawley passed through the U.S. Senate in December which would require duck boat operators to remove canopies from their vessels. Braal said Branson Duck Tours is not part of a company operating in any other cities and does not have any affiliation with Ripley Entertainment.
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