The accident that didn’t have to happen on Table Rock Lake is going to happen again. Maybe not in Missouri, but somewhere, sometime and to somebody else.
That’s because no one — regulators, lawmakers, the industry — is being ordered to take the appropriate safety precautions.
Earlier this month, the National Transportation Safety Board released its “Safety Recommendation Report” into the duck boat accident on Table Rock Lake in the summer of 2018. It was an accident that killed 17 people.
“Lives could have been saved, and the Stretch Duck 7 accident could have been prevented had previously issued safety recommendations been implemented,” NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt said in a statement.
“It is imperative that the United States Coast Guard adopt these life-saving recommendations now,” Sumwalt said.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because 20 years earlier there was a similar accident in Arkansas in which 13 people died. There were investigations, recommendations, demands for change, etc.
Nothing happened. Nothing changed.
Last week, Coast Guard Lt. Amy Midgett said they issued a guidance in 2000, following that NTSB recommendation, urging its inspectors and vessel owners to evaluate canopy design and installation and to “evaluate the design and installation of seats, deck rails, windshields and windows as a system to ensure the overall arrangement did not restrict the ability of passengers to escape.”
Guidance ... urging ... evaluate ... .
A toothless attitude didn’t get the job done then, and it won’t get the job done now.
The Coast Guard also said a review of amphibious vessel canopies is planned based on “the NTSB’s reissuance” of recommendations.
Again, review ... planned ... recommendations ... .
It is way too little, way too late.
Readers who followed the Globe’s own investigation after the Table Rock Lake accident already know all of this.
We reported then that the canopies on these boats are inherently unsafe and can function like a net, trapping passengers against the roof when they need to escape as the boats sink.
We noted then that duck boats, made of metal, have a heavy chassis and transmission, swamp easily and sink quickly.
We also reported then that the boats needed “reserve buoyancy,” such as foam or bulkheads, to help them stay afloat in adverse conditions.
Yet no one — regulators, lawmakers, the industry — learned lessons from what happened in 1999 and took appropriate steps. We don’t believe anything will change after 2018.
The time has come to ban these boats for commercial and passenger use. As we argued then, surely, in the nearly 80 years since these boats were built for World War II cargo — cargo — better technologies and better designs are available if we want to continue using amphibious vehicles for recreational travel.
But as for this technology and this design — that ship has sailed.
Copyright The Joplin Globe. Reprinted with permission.