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The Missouri duck boat tragedy could set off an industry-wide call for safer boats

The Missouri duck boat tragedy could set off an industry-wide call for safer boats
[Photo: Captain-tucker/Wikimedia Commons]

Last night a large tour boat sank in a Missouri lake, which resulted in at least 13 people losing their lives. The rig carrying the 31 passengers was a duck boat, which is a large aquatic vehicle resembling an old World War II ship. The boat design has become a staple of tourism.

Duck boat tours are big business–dozens of cities around the world use them to shuttle passengers around the most touristic areas–but they have also had more than a few safety mishaps. The second most deadly duck boat-related accident happened in 1999, when 11 people died after a tour boat sank.

Since then, another accident seems to occur every few years. In 2015, a duck boat in Seattle collided with a bus, killing five college students. In 2010, a pedestrian was killed after being hit by one of the huge vehicles.

With this latest tragedy, some are already calling for a need to rethink the aquatic tour industry. The lawyer representing the woman killed in Philadelphia has called for the tour boats to be banned. And last year, Boston–one of the most prominent duck boat tour cities–began adopting new safety regulations in the wake of concerns from critics.

Now such criticism is likely to reach fever pitch. Speaking with CBS, the lawyer pointed out that critics have called for alterations to the boats, many of which were never adopted. After the Missouri incident, though, sweeping changes may finally be on the horizon. The National Transportation Safety Board said it has launched an investigation into the accident. I reached out to the agency for more details and will update this post if I hear back.

For now, we should expect to hear more critics calling for better tour boat safety. We’ll see if the industry responds.

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