SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - The Coast Guard has announced that efforts will begin Monday to salvage the duck boat that capsized on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri, on Thursday, killing 17 people aboard. A crane from a southwest Missouri salvage operation has already been brought to a staging area near the site where the duck boat went down.
The boat sank Thursday evening as a thunderstorm brought near-hurricane-strength winds to Table Rock Lake. Search, rescue and recovery operations began shortly afterward and continued through Friday. By then, officials had determined that 17 of the 31 passengers on the duck boat perished, and divers had found the duck at the bottom of the lake.
Nine members of one Indiana family died in the accident. Tia Coleman, one of the survivors, lost her husband, three children, her uncle, nephew, mother-in-law, father-in-law and sister-in-law.
The Coast Guard on Sunday said that salvage operations for the duck boat are tentatively scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday morning. The Coast Guard said it will oversee the salvage operations, which will be coordinated by the Ride the Ducks company.
"The salvage plan includes bringing Stretch Duck 7 to the surface, taking it to shore and transporting it to a secure facility for further inspection and investigation, where the National Transportation Safety Board will maintain custody of it," the Coast Guard said in a statement.
Divers are expected to swim down and connect the duck boat to a crane, which will then try to lift the boat from where it rests beneath 80 feet of water, according to a Coast Guard official.
Fitzco Marine Group of Shell Knob was called in to help with the salvage efforts, according to photographs provided by the Coast Guard. A Fitzco representative declined to comment Sunday other than saying the company was meeting with the Coast Guard and the Missouri State Highway Patrol when reached by the Springfield (Missouri) News-Leader.
Chris O'Neil, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, said the agency's fieldwork generally takes a week to 10 days, though that could be extended if there is difficulty recovering the sunken duck.
In addition to interviews, O'Neil said the board was gathering records about the duck's maintenance, operation, and previous Coast Guard inspections. The duck boats are inspected and certified by the Coast Guard, and any modifications to the vehicle require Coast Guard approval, according to O'Neil.
Part of the board's investigation will consider whether any damage to the duck occurred as a result of the crash or during the salvage process.
Federal officials hope a video recorder recovered from a sunken duck boat can provide information about the minutes leading up to the sinking.The device headed to a National Transportation Safety Board lab in Washington, D.C., but it's still unclear whether the recorder was working at the time of the fatal capsizing or whether any of its data can be retrieved.
Keith Holloway, another NTSB spokesman, said it was also unclear whether the Branson duck boat's video-recording device had any audio capabilities. The device was recovered by divers, a team of which had been searching a cove on Table Rock Lake to locate the boat and the bodies of the deceased.
Investigators have also interviewed some of the survivors, Holloway said, as well as people on another duck boat that was on the lake at the same time but managed to avoid swamping and crashing.
Holloway also said the board is asking for anyone who witnessed or recorded the sinking to contact federal officials at email@example.com as investigators seek a more comprehensive understanding of what led to the duck boat's demise.
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