(Reuters) – At least 11 people including children drowned after a tourist “duck boat” sank in a storm on a lake in Missouri and authorities were set to resume a search on Friday for five missing.
Divers will resume searching Table Rock Lake outside the town of Branson a day after the “Ride the Ducks” amphibious vehicle sank, Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader told reporters at a news conference late on Thursday.
Five people are missing, the sheriff said. Seven victims including two who are critically injured were treated at the Cox Medical Center in Branson, the hospital said on Twitter.
Emergency crews responded to the incident shortly after 7 p.m. (0000 GMT) after thunderstorms rolled through an area that is a Midwestern tourist destination, the fire district said on Twitter.
“There was some heavy wind. It was having problems through the wind,” Rader told reporters. “They were coming back toward land. There was actually two ducks. The first one made it out. The second one didn’t.”
National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Linderberg told the Springfield News-Leader newspaper that 63 miles (101 km) per hour winds were recorded at the Branson airport near the time of the incident.
“We had a line of very strong thunderstorms that caused 74 mph winds here in Springfield,” he told the newspaper, noting that winds were likely stronger on the lake.
Video footage shot by a witness on shore showed strong waves tossing two duck boats side to side. The video clip was posted online by KY3.
Life jackets were on board the boat, Rader said.
The National Transportation Safety Board was sending investigators to the scene on Friday, the agency said on Twitter.
“Our number one priority is the families and our employees that were affected by this tragic accident,” said Suzanne Smagala-Potts a spokeswoman for Ripley Entertainment, which owns the Ride The Ducks operation in Branson.
She could not confirm how many crew members were aboard the boat.
Duck vehicles, inspired by watercraft used in the D-Day landing in World War Two, are used on sightseeing tours around the world and have been involved in a number of fatal accidents on land and in the water in the past two decades.
The company that builds ducks, Ride the Ducks International LLC, agreed in 2016 to pay a $1 million fine after one of the vehicles collided with a bus in Seattle, killing five international students.
The company admitted to failing to comply with U.S. vehicle manufacturing rules.
Two tourists died in Philadelphia in 2010 when the duck boat they were riding in was struck by a tugboat in the Delaware River.
Located in southwestern Missouri, Branson is home to tourist attractions including “Dolly Parton’s Stampede,” a horse show, a and a Titanic museum with a model of the sunken vessel’s front half.
Reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg