A tourist duck boat capsized in a lake near Branson, Missouri, killing at least 17 people, including children, as severe thunderstorms struck the area Thursday night, the Missouri State Highway Patrol said.
Seven others were injured when the boat plunged into Table Rock Lake, officials said.
“Our thoughts and prayers right now are with these family members,” Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said Friday morning, calling the accident a “tragedy.”
A total of 29 passengers and two crew members were on board the amphibious craft when it plunged into 80 feet of water and landed upright on its wheels, Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader said. One crew member survived and one did not.
It appeared there were life jackets on board, Rader said, but it was not yet clear how many people were wearing them.
Severe evening thunderstorms, including winds in excess of 60 mph, struck the area at the time. Eyewitness video showed the craft, which travels on land and water, taking on water as waves lashed at its sides.
Tony Burkhart posted a video on Twitter showing the stormy conditions on the lake before the boat capsized. He said he and his wife decided not to take the tour because of the weather.
We saw high winds + bad weather roll in, so I decided to get a refund and leave with my wife. Headed out, countless first responders + emergency vehicles were going in #Branson to help with the #DuckBoat incident. Branson Belle crew helped toss life preservers to those overboard. pic.twitter.com/71H61ir0Gy
— Tony Burkhart (@tonyburkhart) July 20, 2018
Allison Lester, who was on a nearby boat, told “Good Morning America” Friday that the waters “were rough.”
“The wind really picked up bad and debris was flying everywhere,” she said.
Lester’s boyfriend, Trent Behr, added: “We actually heard the captain say the boat flipped or the boat was sinking.”
Behr said he saw a woman lying in the water.
“We eventually did pull her up onto the boat,” Behr said. “She was unconscious. I was about ready to start CPR and the EMT did show up at that time.”
Suzanne Smagala-Potts of Ride the Ducks Branson, the company involved in the accident, said in a statement, “We are deeply saddened by the tragic accident.”
“This incident has deeply affected all of us,” Smagala-Potts said. “We will continue to do all we can to assist the families who were involved and the authorities as they continue with the search and rescue. The safety of our guests and employees is our number one priority.”
President Trump and the First Lady “extend their deepest sympathies to all those affected by yesterday’s boating accident on Table Rock Lake,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement Friday. “Our prayers are with the victims and their loved ones. We are thankful for the brave first responders and dive crews, whose quick and decisive actions have saved many lives, and we continue to pray for their safety as their search, rescue, and recovery operations continue.”
“Since the incident occurred, the Administration has been in contact with Governor Parson and other State and local officials, and the President will continue to monitor and receive regular updates on the situation,” the statement added.
President Trump also expressed his condolences for the victims Friday morning on Twitter.
“My deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those involved in the terrible boat accident which just took place in Missouri,” President Trump said in a tweet. “Such a tragedy, such a great loss. May God be with you all!”
My deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those involved in the terrible boat accident which just took place in Missouri. Such a tragedy, such a great loss. May God be with you all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 20, 2018
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said it is sending a team to investigate.
ABC News’ Will Gretsky, Whitney Lloyd and Matt Foster contributed to this report.
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