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Duck Boat recovered from the bottom of Table Rock Lake

A duck boat that sank the week before was brought to the surface of the water on Monday, July 23, 2018, at Table Rock Lake in Branson next to the Showboat Branson Belle. The recovery effort took about five hours to raise the boat from about 80 feet underwater. Photo by J.B. Forbes, jforbes@post-dispatch.com

WASHINGTON • As she signaled last week, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., on Tuesday introduced legislation aimed at tightening security on duck boats, one of which sank in Table Rock Lake near Branson, Mo., on July 17

The legislation would codify into law recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board after a similar accident in Arkansas nearly 20 years ago.

Among other things, it would require amphibious passenger vehicles be designed to stay afloat when flooded, increase inspections, and remove canopies that McCaskill said last week made the boat in Table Rock a “sinking coffin” when it ran into a sudden storm. Seventeen out of 31 people on board died.

McCaskill and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., both spoke on the tragedy on the Senate floor last week, but Blunt said then he’d prefer to wait for federal investigations to see exactly what, if any, change in law is necessary. McCaskill said that investigation could take a year, or more.

“It’ll take some time before we know exactly what went wrong in Branson, but there’s absolutely no reason to wait to take this commonsense step,” McCaskill said in a statement accompanying the announcement she was introducing the bill.

On the Senate floor, Blunt said federal investigators needed to answer questions first:

“Did the Coast Guard do what they were supposed to do?” he said. “Did the equipment do what it was supposed to do? And certainly we’ll be looking carefully at the report and to decide what needs to happen as a result of that report.”

Chuck Raasch is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.