A new group, The Branson Duck Tours, just announced the return of the amphibious duck boat tours​ to Branson, Missouri this spring, calling the tours a beloved Branson tradition. Branson Duck Tours said tours are returning to the popular tourist destination.

This is not the same group or company that suffered the horrible tragedy four years ago in July 2018, when a duck boat loaded with 31 tourists capsized in rough waters and sank on Table Rock lake in Branson, Missouri and took the lives of 17 men, women and children. The water was calm when the boat entered the water but a severe storm developed producing high winds the boat was unable to handle, causing the boat to capsize and sink. 

The original duck boats were developed during World War II as a way to get supplies and reinforcements for troops. After the war they were modified for sightseeing. However, since 1999, the boats have been linked to dozens of deaths.

The duck boat that sank was part of the fleet owned and operated under Branson’s “Ride the Ducks” franchise owned by Ripley Entertainment, and still had side curtains. Ripley immediately suspended operation on Table Rock Lake, and the remaining vehicles in the Branson group’s fleet were sold to an Arkansas-based investment company.

Organizers of Branson Duck Tours will be using a different amphibious vehicle, the Hydra-Terra, and the tours will be on nearby Lake Taneycomo, rather than Table Rock Lake, according to the company’s website. “The Hydra-Terra is the only state-of-the-art amphibious tour bus specifically designed and built for safe duck tours.

Branson Duck Tours Chief Communications Officer Josh Blumenthal, in an interview with KY3, said “The largestimprovement to our vehicles that differentiates them is the foam-filled hull that prevents sinking.” 

Blumenthal also said, “The new vehicles have captain visibility from all passenger seats, wider aisle ways, and an improved fire suppression system. Our boats will not have side curtains and I think that’s really important. That was a big part of what added to the 2018 tragedy.”

The group also said the new boats they are using follow all DOT and U.S. Coast Guard regulations, whereas the old boats had grandfathered protections and exemptions from certain safety standards.
Blumenthal told KY3 the tours are scheduled to begin at the end of April or the beginning of May.

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