Missouri AG refiles criminal charges in duck boat accident that killed 17

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Two days after a Missouri judge dismissed criminal cases against three managers of a Missouri duck boat tour company stemming from a 2018 boat ride that resulted in the deaths of 17 customers, state Attorney General Eric Schmitt has refiled charges.

Kenneth Scott McKee, Curtis Lanham and Charles Baltzell of Ride the Ducks Branson are now each once against facing 17 counts of first-degree involuntary manslaughter after allowing a boat with 31 passengers to go out during a thunderstorm with winds as high as 73 mph. Of the 17 casualties, five were children. McKee was captain of the boat, Baltzell was manager, and Lanham was general manager.

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“As I’ve said previously, my Office is committed to fighting for justice on behalf of the 17 people that were tragically killed in 2018 – that’s why we re-filed the charges in this case,” Schmitt said in a statement, according to local outlet OzarksFirst.com.

Eric Schmitt, Missouri attorney general, speaks during a news conference outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Sept. 9, 2019.

Eric Schmitt, Missouri attorney general, speaks during a news conference outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Sept. 9, 2019.
(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Judge Alan Blankenship dismissed the charges against all three men earlier this month. Blankenship, according to local KY3, had said that while the defendants were aware of the storm, evidence did not show that they knew about its “gust front.” He also said the boat’s own design resulted in it sinking quickly.

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The dismissal, however, was without prejudice, so Schmitt soon after refiled charges with a probable cause statement that said the three men failed to properly check weather monitoring systems or follow the company’s own operations manual.

Court records show that the case was requested to be assigned to a new judge.

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