Judge dismisses criminal counts in Missouri duck boat deaths

Boat entered lake despite weather warnings

A federal judge has dismissed charges against three men in connection with their involvement in a 2018 Missouri boat accident that killed 17 people, including nine members of the same family.  

U.S. District Judge Doug Harpool filed an order Wednesday upholding a recommendation made in September. 

Kenneth Scott McKee, of Verona, the captain of the duck boat; Curtis Lanham, of Galena, the general manager of the boat’s operator, Ride the Ducks Branson; and Charles Baltzell, of Kirbyville, the manager on duty that day, were charged with neglect and misconduct after the vessel sank on Table Rock Lake near Branson when a storm rolled into the area. 

SUNKEN DUCK BOAT RAISED FROM MISSOURI LAKE DAYS AFTER 17 PEOPLE KILLED

The duck boat is hauled out of the water on July 23, 2018, at Table Rock Lake in Branson, Mo. A federal judge dismissed charges against three people connected to the incident. (J.B. Forbes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

The duck boat is hauled out of the water on July 23, 2018, at Table Rock Lake in Branson, Mo. A federal judge dismissed charges against three people connected to the incident. (J.B. Forbes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Missouri federal Magistrate Judge David Rush made the recommendation, saying the lake isn't covered under federal law and that the case should be handled by a state court. 

“While the events of July 19, 2018 remain an unfortunate accident and tragedy we’re pleased that both Judge Harpool and Magistrate Judge Rush have sustained the admiralty dismissal motion,” McKee's attorneys, J.R. Hobbs and Marilyn Keller, said in a statement.

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The boat was on the lake on July 19, 2018, during severe weather warnings. Fourteen people survived. The Justice Department declined to comment on the decision. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.