Children among 17 killed after boat capsizes on Missouri lake during fierce thunderstorm

A tourist boat capsized and sank in a sudden storm on a lake in Missouri leaving 17 dead, authorities said Friday after divers recovered all the bodies

                            Children among 17 killed after boat capsizes on Missouri lake during fierce thunderstorm
(Source:Getty Images)

A tourist boat capsized and sank in a sudden storm on a lake in Missouri leaving 17 dead, authorities said Friday after divers recovered the bodies of the last people who were missing. Reports state that some of the dead also include children.

The accident occurred on Thursday in full view of witnesses, at least one of whom captured video of the small boat bobbing in rough waters on Table Rock Lake near the city of Branson, a popular holiday destination. 

The tragedy which occurred on a Ride The Ducks boat was deemed as a "mass casualty" by the Southern Stone County Fire Protection District. The boat, which has wheels that allow it to ride on land and float on the water, was seen struggling to reach the shore against strong winds, before succumbing to the waves and beginning to sink. 

The incident occurred amidst a heavy storm and the emergency services were called to the scene shortly after severe thunderstorms rolled through the area, according to KY3. Some passengers were able to swim to shore, but the death toll quickly climbed as divers headed back in the water Friday morning to search for four people that had yet to be found.

"We found those (missing) within the last hour," Missouri State Highway Patrol spokesman Jason Pace told AFP Friday morning.

Pace said authorities were "in the process of making notification to the families."

Authorities would not release the ages of the dead until those notifications were completed, but said several of them were children. The boat's driver had also died, police said. 

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and the victims in this tragic event," Missouri Governor Mike Parson told a news conference.  

The sheriff, after midnight, confirmed that some of the dead were children and several were still missing.  Although the identities of the dead have not been released yet, Radar said that there were at least three children on board at the time of the incident.

The sheriff added that according to him all those people who died in the incident died by drowning. 

The public information officer at Cox Health in Branson, Brandei Clifton, told KY3 that out of the six people she knew of who were being treated at the hospital after the incident, had minor injuries. She added that three of these people were adults and three are under 18.

Cox Health also released a statement at around 11:30 saying that they were treating at least 7 patients, out of who two were in a critical condition, according to reports.

Rader said that search and rescue divers wrapped up their operation at nearly midnight and headed back to shore because of lack of light.  The sheriff said that he believes the boat capsized due to severe weather.

National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Linderberg said that at the time of the incident on Thursday, the top wind speed of 63 mph was measured at Branson Airport.

Linderberg added that the winds were likely stronger over the lake: "There’s nothing to slow down winds in an open area."

The accident was caused by heavy winds as a storm moved over the man-made lake in southern Missouri.

The duck boat was one of two in the water at the time. The other safely reached shore. 

People on a nearby larger vessel, known as the Branson Belle, jumped into the water to rescue victims, Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader said.

Seven people were hospitalized, two in critical condition. 

Rick Kettels, who owns the Lakeside Resort, said the storm formed suddenly.

"It just came up real quick," he told AFP, adding the severe weather struck around 6:15 pm local time. 

"I've been here most of my life and I never saw a storm this bad," he added.

Multiple videos taken from the incident scene shows the boat struggling to stay afloat whilst being lashed by massive waves and eventually tilting to the side before it begins to sink into the water. In some clips, the boat appears to be submerged up to the windows.

Reports state that Duck amphibious vehicles have been involved in a series of fatal accidents across the world in the last two decades. The company which operates these boats in the region, Ride The Ducks, did not respond immediately to a request for comment about the incident.

The regional authorities have asked people who are missing a family member from the capsized duck boat to approach Branson City Hall for further details.

President Donald Trump tweeted his condolences.

"My deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those involved in the terrible boat accident which just took place in Missouri. Such a tragedy, such a great loss. May God be with you all!" he said.

The storm system that hit Missouri also struck much of the Midwest late Thursday, according to meteorologists.

Several tornadoes tore through Iowa to the north, causing injuries as well as damage to a number of buildings. 

No fatalities were reported, but a hospital was evacuated and a manufacturing plant suffered significant damage, according to the state's emergency operations department. 

(With AFP inputs)

Disclaimer : This is based on sources and we have been unable to verify this information independently.