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NTSB Repeats Recommendations For ‘Duck Boats’

The National Transportation Safety Board is doubling down on safety recommendations for World War II amphibious vessels converted to passenger vessels, insisting that failure to implement its previous recommendations has cost lives.

As part of its ongoing investigation of the fatal July 19, 2018, accident at Table Rock Lake near Branson, Mo., involving a modified World War II DUKW amphibious passenger vessel (popularly known as “duck boats”), the National Transportation Safety Board issued Marine Safety Recommendation Report 19/01 on November 13.

Seventeen of the 31 people aboard the modified Stretch Duck 7 died when the vessel sank during a rapidly developing high-wind storm on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Mo.

The new recommendations call upon the U.S. Coast Guard to require sufficient reserve buoyancy for DUKW amphibious passenger vessels, and to require the removal of canopies, side curtains and their associated framing, while underway, for those without sufficient reserve buoyancy.

Since 1999, the NTSB has issued 22 safety recommendations related to modified DUKW amphibious passenger vessels. Of those 22, nine were implemented, four were pending and classified open–acceptable response and the remaining nine had not been implemented and were classified open–unacceptable response, closed–unacceptable action or closed–unacceptable action/no response received.

Safety recommendation M-00-5 addressed the need for DUKWs to have adequate reserve buoyancy but was classified closed–unacceptable action/no response received, eight years after its issuance.

The NTSB said it believes the failure to implement previous safety recommendations related to reserve buoyancy for DUKWs contributed to the sinking of the Stretch Duck 7. Similarly, the failure to implement the previously issued recommendation concerning fixed canopies, following the fatal, 1999 Miss Majestic DUKW accident, likely increased the number of fatalities resulting from Stretch Duck 7 sinking.

“Lives could have been saved, and the Stretch Duck 7 accident could have been prevented had previously issued safety recommendations been implemented,” said NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt. “The NTSB’s 1999 investigation of the another DUKW, the Miss Majestic, also identified the lack of reserve buoyancy and the dangers of canopies as safety issues.  In 2008, recommendations from that accident addressing these safety issues were classified ‘Closed-Unacceptable Action’ due largely to inaction. Twenty years later, the same risk exists on these vessels, and that is unacceptable,” said Sumwalt. “It is imperative that the United States Coast Guard adopt these life-saving recommendations now.”

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