Hawley says new duck boat bill is vital to keep people safe

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JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley is introducing a new bill to make duck boats safer, nearly a year after 17 were killed in an accident on Table Rock Lake.

The bill, introduced Thursday, would require duck boats to follow National Transportation Safety Board recommendations.

"These are recommendations that they have recommended for literally years now, and Congress has failed to act," Hawley said.

Hawley said his bill goes beyond the one previously filed by former Sen. Claire McCaskill, who he unseated in November, by requiring operators and owners to come back or stay in if there is a severe weather warning.

"This is so important because the tragedy on Table Rock Lake happened in part because there was a severe weather warning that was ignored by the operators there," Hawley said. "We need to make sure that doesn't happen again."

He also said every duck boat owner has to conduct a safety inspection of their vessel every time before going onto the water. 

The NTSB recommendations that this bill would make part of the law are:

  • Removal of canopies that can restrict horizontal or vertical escape in the event of sinking and require personal floatation devices to be worn.

  • Install independently powered electric bilge pumps able to remove water

  • Install not fewer than four independently powered bilge alarms

  • Verify watertight integrity of any vessel at the outset of each waterborne departure 

  • The bill prohibits the further operation of non-compliant APVs

  • Operators must inform passengers that seatbelts may not be worn during water borne operations and a crew member must visually check that each passenger has unbuckled his or her seatbelt

Hawley said the next steps for passing the bill would be getting support. He said he hoped there will be broad bipartisan support.

"It's a very simple choice," Hawley said. "This is how we need to move forward to keep folks safe who are enjoying these rides, and if the duck boat operator can't meet these standards they don't get to operate."