UPDATE: Criminal charges refiled in duck boat accident that killed Kentuckians

Jayden Coleman, who was a high school student in Lexington at the time of the accident, lost nine family members in the tragedy

Story update from April 14, 2022:

GALENA, MO (WTVQ) – Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt refiled criminal charges against three men he says were involved in the 2018 sinking of a tour boat on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri that killed 17 people, including several Kentuckians.

After a judge in Stone County Circuit Court decided on April 5, 2022, the local prosecutor didn’t have enough evidence to sustain a criminal case against the three men, Attorney General Schmitt brought 63 criminal counts against them, including involuntary manslaughter.

Those charged included the duck coat captain, Kenneth McKee, and two employees of the tour boat operator ‘Ride the Ducks,’ Curtis Lanham and Charles Baltzell.

The criminal complaint accuses the three men of neglecting passenger safety when they decided to bring the duck boat onto the lake as a storm approached.

The three men were indicted by a federal grand jury in 2019, but the charges were thrown out when a federal judge ruled the U.S. Justice Department didn’t have jurisdiction over the case due to the nature of Table Rock Lake.

An investigation into the deadly accident by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) showed the lake was calm when the water tour began, but a rare storm, called a derecho, descended upon the lake with winds estimated at sixty miles per hour.  The boat capsized during the storm, tossing all 31 people onboard, including children, into the water.

Jayden Coleman, who was a student and football player at Lexington’s Frederick Douglass High School at the time of the accident, lost nine family members in the tragedy.  Among those victims, Butch Coleman, who was a member of the first integrated class at Harlan County High School.

 

Story below from April 7, 2022:

GALENA, MO. (WTVQ) – It’s one of the deadliest boat accidents in U.S. history, seventeen people killed and now, nearly four years later, all 63 criminal charges filed by state prosecutors in Missouri have been dropped against the boat’s captain and two other employees.

Judge Alan Blankenship on Tuesday announcing in court he didn’t feel the evidence supported the levels of criminal intent as defined by statute.

The duck boat capsized with 31 people onboard on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri in July of 2018.  A thunderstorm blew-up with winds estimated at sixty miles per hour while the boat was out on the lake.  When the boat capsized during the storm, all 31 people were tossed into the water, including children.

Jayden Coleman, who was a student and football player at Lexington’s Frederick Douglass High School at the time of the accident, lost nine family members in the tragedy.  Among those victims, Butch Coleman, who was a member of the first integrated class at Harlan County High School.

Prosecutors argued the three duck boat employees were negligent in allowing the boat to enter the water despite several weather warnings.

The judge ruled the employees weren’t reckless, that they knew about the stormy weather, but not the high winds.

The criminal charges, including first-degree involuntary manslaughter, were dismissed without prejudice, so they could be refiled.  The Missouri attorney general told ABC affiliate KSPR-TV, his office is hoping to refile and that he was disappointed in the court’s decision, adding, the pursuit of justice isn’t over.

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