by: Steve Vockrodt, Ozarks First/KC Star

A federal prosecutor said in a court filing that “several” employees, agents or officers of Ripley Entertainment are targets and/or subjects of a criminal investigation in the July 19 duck boat disaster on Table Rock Lake that killed 17 people.

A Jan. 18 filing by assistant U.S. attorney Casey Clark in a civil lawsuit tied to the duck boat incident said the investigation of Ripley Entertainment, the duck boat operator in Branson, and other individuals remain ongoing, even after a captain of the sunken boat was brought up on criminal charges late last year.

Kenneth Scott McKee, who captained Stretch Boat 7 as it was battered and sunk by fierce winds and driving rain, was indicted by a federal grand jury in November, accused of negligence in operating a boat in unsafe conditions. McKee has pleaded not guilty.

It was the worst disaster involving a duck boat, the World War II-era vessels that have been reconfigured for sightseeing tours on both land and water since the 1999 sinking of a duck boat in Arkansas. The National Transportation Safety Board recommended several safety improvements after the Arkansas catastrophe but few, if any, have been implemented.

In the Table Rock Lake case, a captain of another boat on the water that evening was previously identified as a target of the criminal investigation but has not been charged.

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