Grand jury indicts captain of duck boat that crashed, killing 17 people

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CNN — The captain of a duck boat that capsized in July on a Missouri lake, killing 17 people, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with the wreck.

Kenneth Scott McKee, 51, faces 17 counts related to “acts of misconduct, negligence or inattention to duty,” one for each victim, according to the indictment, which was announced Thursday by Tim Garrison, US Attorney for the Western District of Missouri.

The federal criminal investigation into the deadly wreck on Table Rock Lake, near the tourist hub of Branson, Missouri, began after the US Coast Guard in July determined the deaths resulted from the captain’s actions. The investigation is ongoing, Garrison told reporters Thursday.

A federal grand jury found that McKee failed to properly assess incoming weather before and while he put the vessel in the water, entered the vessel on the water as severe weather approached, failed to instruct passengers to put on personal flotation devices and operated the duck boat in violation of its conditions and limitations, among other acts, according to the indictment.

McKee’s actions related to the day’s weather also have been scrutinized by the National Transportation Safety Board, which in July noted, “The captain made a verbal reference to looking at the weather radar prior to the trip,” citing video recorded on the boat.

McKee is not in custody, Garrison said, adding that the charges announced Thursday are the first criminal indictments related to the incident. The US attorney would not say whether McKee has been cooperating with the probe.

McKee’s attorney and Ripley Entertainment, which runs the duck boat tours called Ride the Ducks Branson, did not immediately respond Thursday CNN’s requests for comment.

In case of a conviction, each count against McKee carries possible prison time of up to 10 years and a fine of as much as $250,000.

The boat was carrying 31 passengers when it capsized.

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