In an indictment referring to an underestimated law dating from the era of steamship, Kenneth Scott McKee, captain of the duck boat that sank during a violent thunderstorm in July into the southwestern Missouri, was charged Thursday with misbehavior and negligence. Seventeen people aged 1 to 76, including nine members of an Indiana family, died on July 19 when the boat capsized in the high winds and began to take water, made one of the deadliest duck accidents in decades. "Each of the 17 counts in this indictment represents a life lost when Stretch Duck 7 sank while his pilot was flying Mr. McKee," said Tim Garrison, US Attorney for the Western District of Missouri. a press conference held Thursday. McKee is liable to a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment for each charge. The indictment stated that McKee failed to properly assess the weather forecast and ignored warnings of high winds and lightning when he took the boat to Table Rock Lake, a popular tourist destination near Branson, in Missouri. accelerate and head for the shore. Later, when the ship's bilge alarm sounded, indicating that it was likely to sink, McKee failed to tell the passengers to put on lifejackets and was not prepared to abandon the vessel. McKee's lawyer, J.R. Hobbs, told the Springfield News chief that McKee would plead not guilty, but declined comment.
DOSSIER – In this archival photo of July 23, 2018, a duck boat that sank in Table Rock Lake, in Branson, Missouri, was raised after being extinguished on the evening of 19 July, after a thunderstorm generated a force close to the hurricane, killing 17 people. A federal indictment released on Thursday, November 8, 2018, relates to 17 counts of misconduct, negligence or inattention to the duty of the master of the boat, Kenneth Scott McKee, causing death. (Nathan Popes / The Springfield Head of Information via AP, File) The law on which McKee was accused is known as the manslaughter of a sailor and goes back to the days when steamboat disasters were commonplace, killing hundreds of people in fires and explosions of boilers. In 1838 Congress passed a law stating that captains and their crews could be held criminally responsible if anyone on board died as a result of their misconduct, negligence or inattention to their duties. "Until recently, a sailor's manslaughter was a rare occurrence," wrote Jeanne Grasso, a partner in Blank Rome LLP, specializing in maritime law, in a 2005 article. in the Benedict Marine Bulletin. She wrote that from 1848 to 1990, there were only eight major prosecutions under the law. But between 1998 and 2005, the law was used to prosecute ship captains and crew members in seven major cases. After the deaths of three people when a chartered fishing vessel sank in Winchester Bay, Oregon in 2005, federal prosecutors charged Captain Richard J. Oba with three counts of manslaughter by a seafarer . "The federal authorities are using the sinking of the Sydney Mae II to send a message to thousands of boat operators that they may incur years of imprisonment if people die aboard a ship under their command, "reported the New York Times. citing an anonymous official of the Ministry of Justice. Oba was eventually sentenced to six years in prison, which, according to federal prosecutors, "seems to be the longest in this type of business". Since the law requires the government to prove simple negligence rather than gross negligence, critics say it forces seafarers to a higher standard than workers in other industries and increases the risk of criminal prosecution for a work-related accident. "You can go to jail on a ship for something that can not go by bus or train," said Douglas Stevenson, director of the Seamen's Center for Seafarers' Rights & Church Institute, in 2007. , in the professional journal Professional Mariner. The center, along with other maritime industry groups, lobbied the Congress to change the status that year, without success. After the Table Rock Lake tragedy in July, survivors and family members questioned McKee's decision to release the boat when thunderstorms were announced. Carolyn Coleman, who has lost nine of her family over three generations, told the Washington Post in July that she thought the disaster could easily have been averted. "Why did this boat even come out?" She said. "When you're on vacation and on tour, you expect anyone operating these facilities to be aware of the weather and what's going on in the area, which could hurt anyone." Branson Ride the Ducks, a division of Ripley Entertainment, currently faces several lawsuits from Coleman's family and relatives of other victims. These procedures involve a different and equally controversial piece of maritime law dating back to the 19th century. Last month, Ripley Entertainment's lawyers invoked the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851, claiming that the company owed no injury to the families of the victims because the boat was not carrying any cargo and had no value. Victims' lawyers strongly criticized the move, while a spokesman for Ripley Entertainment said it was "common in maritime incident complaints" and said the company was already working to to solve the problems of the victims. "We recognize the importance of the grand jury process and continue to cooperate with the US Attorney's Office and other authorities who are determining the facts surrounding the accident on July 19," wrote Suzanne Smagala-Potts, spokesperson from Ripley Entertainment. in an email sent Thursday to the Washington Post. "Above all, we are committed to helping all our guests, employees and families affected by the accident. We offer them our sincere condolences and the entire community of Branson, Missouri. More on Morning Mix: A federal judge blocks Keystone Pipeline XL, saying the Trump administration has "rejected" facts about climate change. Mille Oaks' parents: "I do not want prayers. I do not want thoughts. I want gun control.