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More than 400 people attend a memorial service for Ride the Ducks victims held at College of the Ozarks.
Photo provided by College of the Ozarks
More than 400 people attend a memorial service for Ride the Ducks victims held at College of the Ozarks.

Ride the Ducks owner offers to pay victims’ expenses

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As state and federal officials investigate the July 19 accident involving Ride the Ducks Branson, the owner of the capsized amphibious vehicle is offering to pay for the victims’ expenses.

Through the Ride the Ducks Branson Facebook page, owner Ripley Entertainment Inc. this morning pledged “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.”

“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,” the post reads. “Thank you for your support, and we continue to ask that your thoughts and prayers be with the families during this difficult time.”

Further, the post indicated Ride the Ducks Branson is cooperating with an investigation led by the National Transportation Safety Board and involving the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

“Because we are a party to the NTSB investigation, we are not allowed to comment on any aspect of it,” the post reads. “However, our job is to cooperate and provide information to those officials and to comfort the families of those affected by this tragic event.”

Among other community efforts, Community Foundation of the Ozarks and its affiliates, Table Rock Lake Community Foundation and Community Foundation of Taney County, established the Branson Area Disaster Relief Fund to accept donations supporting victims of the accident.

An accident report posted by the Highway Patrol states the amphibious vehicle “was overcome by high winds in a thunderstorm, causing the vessel to swamp and then sink.” The incident left 17 of 31 passengers dead.

At the NTSB, the investigation is led by board member Earl Weener, according to the agency’s website.

During a July 21 news conference, Weener said the vessel’s recovered black box was sent to Washington, D.C., for investigation. The agency also is looking into how severe weather information was used prior to the incident and whether the company followed life jacket regulations, according to a video of the news conference posted by OzarksFirst.com.

Weener said winds of up to 73 mph were involved in the accident. The National Hurricane Center indicates hurricanes can start with winds of 74 mph.

On Sunday, College of the Ozarks hosted a memorial service for the victims of the accident on Table Rock Lake. More than 400 people attended the event held at C of O’s Williams Memorial Chapel, according to a news release.

“Today we are all family,” C of O President Jerry Davis said in the release. “We are here today to honor the memory of those who lost their lives in the tragedy on Table Rock Lake Thursday evening. We are here to offer comfort to those who have been affected by this tragedy in so many, many different ways. 

“We appreciate the fact that you made this a priority, and we think that your presence truly reflects the very heart of the Ozarks.”

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