Stone Mountain Park suspends 'Ride the Ducks' service

The death toll from the capsizing of a tourist duck boat on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri, rose to 17 on Friday after authorities located the bodies of four more missing people. Afterward, the National Transportation Safety Board warned that the boats' canopy roofs presented a hazard, making it hard for people, even those wearing life jackets, to escape if one of the vessels capsized. Divers worked through the night on rescue and recovery operations.

Parson spokeswoman Kelli Jones says Friday that another two members of the same family survived when the boat capsized on Table Rock Lake near the tourist town of Branson.

The capsize occurred during a storm that produced gusts of an estimated 60 to 80 miles per hour.

Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader provided the new fatalities figure and also confirmed that seven people were injured in the accident, one of them seriously, Efe reported. The driver of the other was among those killed, officials said.

Fourteen of the 31 passengers survived the accident.

Rader also said an off-duty sheriff's deputy working security at the Showboat Branson Belle helped with the rescue.

"Words can not convey how profoundly our hearts are breaking", the company 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". "My deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those involved in the awful boat accident which just took place in Missouri", President Trump said in a tweet.

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"Our prayers are with the victims and their loved ones", read a statement from the White House press secretary. How the weather impacted the conditions on the water and what the tour boat operators knew before heading out are priorities for investigators.

In a short video taken by Malaske from a dock, the duck boat can be seen wallowing through the choppy, wind-whipped lake, with water only inches from its windows. Then to the gasps of the onlookers, it begins to sink. Dark, rolling waves crash over its front end. "Boats can't get in, boats can't get out". The National Transportation Safety Board, which arrived at the scene Friday afternoon, said they are working to interview survivors as well as gather physical evidence. The board is asking any other witnesses, including those with video or photos of the accident, to email witness@ntsb.gov. ABC News reached out to Ripley Entertainment, which owns the duck boat company, but they did not immediately respond. Shortly thereafter, the duck boat was swamped by the pounding waves and sank.

"It was nearly like a microburst", he said.

The weather service station in Springfield, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of Branson, issued a severe thunderstorm watch for its immediate area Thursday, saying conditions were ripe for winds of 70 mph. The incident reportedly occurred at around 7 p.m. local time.

Numerous reports of high winds and damage were coming in along the leading edge of the storms - including a 75 mile per hour wind gust at Springfield Regional Airport.

The boats were originally designed for the military, specifically to transport troops and supplies in World War II.

Named for their ability to travel on land and in water, duck boats have been involved in other serious accidents in the past, including the deaths of more than 40 people since 1999. That September, a duck boat crashed into a charter bus carrying students in Seattle, killing five and injuring dozens.

  • Sonia Alvarado