Federal charges filed against captain of deadly Missouri duck boat

Rescue personnel work after an amphibious "duck boat" capsized and sank, at Table Rock Lake near Branson, Stone County, Missouri, U.S. July 19, 2018 in this still image obtained from a video on social media. SOUTHERN STONE COUNTY FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT/Facebook/via REUTERS

(Reuters) – The captain of the World War Two-style tourist “duck boat” that sank on a Missouri lake during a storm in July killing 17 people was charged on Thursday with misconduct, negligence and inattention to duty by a federal grand jury, prosecutors said.

Kenneth Scott McKee, 51, of Verona, Missouri, was charged in a 17-count indictment, one count for each of the passengers who died when the vessel sank on July 19.

McKee was captain of the vessel operated by Ripley Entertainment Inc, which ran duck boat tours in Branson, Missouri, Lake Taneycomo and Table Rock Lake, where the incident occurred.

There were 31 passengers aboard the duck boat on Table Rock Lake, outside Branson, Missouri, when hurricane-strength winds churned up the water and sank the craft, causing one of the deadliest U.S. tourist tragedies in recent years.

“The captain of the vessel always has a duty to operate his vessel in a safe manner and that’s why Mr. McKee is under indictment this morning,” Timothy Garrison, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, said in a news conference.

McKee is accused of failing to properly assess the severe weather, instruct passengers to use personal flotation devices, or head for shore and prepare to abandon ship, the indictment said.

McKee was not yet in custody and was expected to surrender to authorities, Garrison said.

He faces up to 10 years in federal prison without parole for each count and a $250,000 fine. McKee’s lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Garrison declined to say whether other people were being investigated.

The families of four people who died have filed lawsuits against tour operator Ripley Entertainment, which operates under the name Ride the Ducks, saying it recklessly allowed the vessel out in dangerous weather.

Nine members of the same family were among the 17 killed.

The boats, modeled on the amphibious landing craft used in the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944, have a checkered history involving more than three dozen fatalities on water and land, including the Table Rock Lake sinking, according to the complaint.

(Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; editing by Bill Berkrot)

Teenager kills 17 in Crimea college shooting: Russian officials

Flowers are seen placed at a memorial by the Kremlin walls to commemorate the victims of a fatal attack on a college in the Crimean port city of Kerch, in Moscow, Russia October 17, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

By Polina Nikolskaya and Gabrielle T├ętrault-Farber

MOSCOW (Reuters) – At least 17 people were killed and dozens injured at a college in the Black Sea region of Crimea on Wednesday when a student went through the building shooting at fellow pupils before killing himself, Russian law enforcement officials said.

Eighteen-year-old Vladislav Roslyakov turned up at the college in the city of Kerch on Wednesday afternoon carrying a firearm and then began shooting, investigators said. His body was later found in the college with what they said were self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

There were no immediate clues as to his motive in mounting such an attack, which recalled similar shooting sprees carried out by students in U.S. schools.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, prompting international condemnation and Western sanctions, but since then there have been no major outbreaks of violence there.

Many of the victims from Wednesday’s attacks were teenage students who suffered shrapnel and bullet wounds.

Pupils and staff described scenes of mayhem as panicked pupils tried to flee the building. They said the attack had started with an explosion, followed by more blasts, and a hail of gunfire.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, at a meeting in the southern Russian resort of Sochi with his Egyptian counterpart, declared a moment’s silence for the victims.

“This is a clearly a crime,” he said. “The motives will be carefully investigated.”

“CHILDREN’S BODIES EVERYWHERE”

The director of the school, Olga Grebennikova, described the scene that she encountered when she entered the college building after the attack.

“There are bodies everywhere, children’s bodies everywhere. It was a real act of terrorism. They burst in five or 10 minutes after I’d left. They blew up everything in the hall, glass was flying,” Grebennikova told Crimean media outlets.

Law enforcement officers gather at the scene of a fatal attack on a college in the port city of Kerch, Crimea October 17, 2018. Ekaterina Kejzo/Courtesy of Kerch.FM/Handout via REUTERS TV

Law enforcement officers gather at the scene of a fatal attack on a college in the port city of Kerch, Crimea October 17, 2018. Ekaterina Kejzo/Courtesy of Kerch.FM/Handout via REUTERS TV

“They then ran about throwing some kind of explosives around, and then ran around the second floor with guns, opened the office doors, and killed anyone they could find.”

Soon after the attack, Russian officials said they were investigating the possibility that it was terrorism. Troops with armored personnel carriers were sent to the scene. Local parents were told to collect their children from the city’s schools and kindergartens for their safety.

However, the Investigative Committee, the state body that investigates major crimes, said later that it was re-classifying the case from terrorism to mass murder.

Officials had previously given the death toll as 18, but the Committee revised that to 17 killed. An employee at Kerch’s hospital said dozens of people were being treated for their injuries in the emergency room and in the operating theater.

Anastasia Yenshina, a 15-year-old student at the college, said she was in a toilet on the ground floor of the building with some friends when she heard the sound of an explosion.

“I came out and there was dust and smoke, I couldn’t understand, I’d been deafened,” she told Reuters. “Everyone started running. I did not know what to do. Then they told us to leave the building through the gymnasium.”

“Everyone ran there… I saw a girl lying there. There was a child who was being helped to walk because he could not move on his own. The wall was covered in blood. Then everyone started to climb over the fence, and we could still hear explosions. Everyone was scared. People were crying.”

Photographs from the scene of the blast showed that the ground floor windows of the two-story building had been blown out, and that debris was lying on the floor outside.

Emergency services teams could be seen in the photographs carrying wounded people from the building on makeshift stretchers and loading them on to buses and ambulances.

A second pupil at the college, who gave his name as Sergei, said he had taken a few steps out of the building into the street when the first blast went off. He was hit by debris from the blast and injured in the leg.

Sergei, 15, told Reuters he ran to another building but said he could hear more explosions going off every few seconds. He took cover and after the attack was over, he was taken to hospital in an ambulance.

“I arrived at the hospital, the scene there was awful. They’re bringing in people all covered in blood, some with arms missing, some with legs missing.”

(Reporting by Moscow newsroom; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Gareth Jones)