BRANSON – The doomed duck boat that sank in the middle of a storm on Thursday, killing 17, was raised from the depths of a Missouri lake Monday, as authorities hope to learn more about why the vessel foundered.
During the retrieval efforts, which began around 9 a.m., divers connected the Ride the Ducks boat to a crane that dragged the vessel from its resting place 80-feet deep in Table Rock Lake. U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Scott Stoermer said the boat will be dewatered and given to the National Transportation Security Board for investigation.
“The boat was at the bottom [of the lake] and resting on its axis,” Stoermer said.
He added: “One of the goals of the investigation is to evaluate if the operational guidance for Ride the Ducks and for this particular operation was followed.”
About an hour before the Coast Guard began pulling the boat up from the bottom of Table Rock Lake on Monday, the Branson duck boat company announced it had offered to pay the medical bill and funeral costs for the victims of Thursday’s accident.
In a statement posted to Facebook, the company said it “remained deeply saddened by the tragic accident."
On Sunday, mechanical inspector Steven Paul told Fox News he warned the company operating the duck boat about massive design flaws and dangerous safety issues almost a year before the accident.
Paul, who served in the U.S. Army for six years as a diesel mechanic before opening Test Drive Technologies in 2009, told Fox he was hired by Ripley Entertainment last year to inspect 24 duck boats.
Paul said he sent the company a "2-to-3-page fleet inspection report" as well as 24 checklist reports and "as many as 20 photos for each duck" he inspected in August 2017.
In the report, he cautioned that the boats' engines -- and pumps that remove water from their hulls -- might fail in bad weather. In rough conditions, water could get into the exhaust system, and then into the motor, cutting it off. With the motor off, its pump for removing water from the hull would not operate.
Paul said he will likely hand over his report to the NTSB sometime Monday.
The Florida-based company did not respond to multiple calls for comment.
The boat, with 31 people aboard, sank Thursday evening after it left for a ride on the lake that was hit by a thunderstorm generating near-hurricane strength winds. National Transportation Safety Board Member Earl Weener said in a Saturday news conference there were recorded anemometer readings of 73 mph. Hurricane-force winds are thought to begin at about 75 mph, said Weener, who also estimated waves rose to around 4 feet, with a possibility of 6-foot crests.
Nine people from the same family were killed in the accident. The other tourists onboard were from Missouri, Arkansas and Illinois. All of those aboard the boat who had been taken to a hospital had been released by Monday morning.
Cellphone video from a witness showed the duck boat taking on water and struggling to move before sinking. Divers also recovered a video-recording device from the boat, but it’s unclear if it captured the accident or if the footage can be retrieved.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.