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Storm sinks duck boat in Missouri, killing 13 people, including children

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(CNN) — [Breaking news update, published at 6:19 a.m.]

The Ride the Ducks Branson boat that sank Thursday evening, leaving at least 13 people dead and others missing, embarked on its trip when the weather was calm, and the storm that sank it “came out of nowhere,” the president of the business’ parent company said.

“My understanding was that when the boat went in the water, it was calm,” said Jim Pattison Jr., president of Ripley Entertainment, the parent company of Ride the Ducks Branson. “And partway through coming back is when … the waves picked up and then obviously swamped the boat.”

At least 13 people died as a result of the incident, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said on CNN’s “New Day” Friday. “There are still people in the water,” Parson said.

The company issued the following statement Friday morning on its website:

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic accident that occurred at Ride The Ducks Branson.

“This incident has deeply affected all of us. Words cannot convey how profoundly our hearts are breaking.

“We will continue to do all we can to assist the families who were involved and the authorities as they continue with the search and rescue.

“The safety of our guests and employees is our number one priority. Ride the Ducks will be closed for business while we support the investigation, and to allow time to grieve for the families and the community.

“Thank you for your support, and we ask that your thoughts and prayers be with the families during this time.”

[Original story, published at 5:38 a.m.]

A day after a duck boat capsized and sank during a severe storm at a southern Missouri lake, killing at least 13 people, divers are resuming a search for people who remain missing.

The Ride the Ducks Branson boat had 31 people aboard when the storm swept in Thursday evening at Table Rock Lake near Branson, officials said. Fourteen survived, Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader said.

Video posted by Jennie Phillips-Hudson Carr, which she recorded from a larger vessel nearby, showed two duck boats rocking and tilting to the side as the lake’s ripples turned into massive waves. One of those boats eventually sank.

“Oh my God, those poor people, oh no!” someone says in the background as the water crashes into the smaller boats.

“If there’s kids on there, those poor babies,” a female voice says.

Diving teams from various agencies scoured the waters for potential victims, and will resume the search Friday.

The duck boat had life jackets

An off-duty deputy working security helped rescue people, Rader said, without providing details. He said life jackets were aboard the boat, but he doesn’t know whether people were wearing them.

Ripley Entertainment, the parent company of Ride the Ducks Branson, said it recently acquired the vessel involved in the incident. It said there were other boats on the lake that returned to dock safely.

Rader confirmed that two duck boats were headed toward land when the winds picked up, and one made it back safely.

The amphibious boat travels on both land and water, and is popular among tourists in major cities. The boats’ history dates back to World War II, when such vessels were a common sight due to their versatility.

Severe thunderstorms hit Branson

Branson was under a severe thunderstorm warning issued shortly before 6:30 p.m., about half an hour before the boat capsized.

There were numerous reports of damage throughout the county, including trees down and structural damage, said CNN meteorologist Taylor Ward. The highest wind gust reported in the area was 63 mph.

“I believe it was caused by weather, yes,” said Rader, referring to the capsizing.

Gov. Mike Parson asked for prayers for first responders and for those involved in the incident.

The Coast Guard will conduct an investigation, said Sgt. Jason Pace of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, which is assisting. A team from the National Transportation Safety Board will travel to the scene Friday morning.

Branson is about 200 miles southeast of Kansas City, and is considered a major family vacation destination.

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