Doomed Duck Boat Designed by Entrepreneur With No Formal Training

posted by RJ Johnson - @rickerthewriter - 

A duck boat that sank in Missouri last week, killing 17 people and injuring several others, was built by a self-taught entrepreneur who does not have any formal training in engineering court documents reveal. 

The Los Angeles Times reports that the designer of the "Stretch Ducks," identified in the documents as Robert McDowell, had only completed two years of college, and did not appear to have any discernible background, experience, training or certification in mechanics when he came up with the design for the amphibious vehicles more than two decades ago. 

The Times obtained court documents from a 2015 lawsuit filed in King County, Washington over another tragedy involving a duck boat. In that incident, the vehicle was traveling down a highway when an axle broke, crashing the watercraft into a tour bus that was filled with international students, leaving five people dead. 

So far, officials have remained mum on the cause for why the "Ride the Ducks" boat sank during a surprise storm on Table Rock Lake last week. Thirty-one people were on-board the boat when the storm capsized the vehicle during a sightseeing tour.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) alluded to another duck boat tragedy while speaking on the floor of the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, saying she has concerns over the safety about the design of the popular watercraft that can also drive on land. 

“There are inherent dangers in these amphibious vehicles,” McCaskill said. “When they’re in the water, it’s almost like an enclosed bus.”

Duck Boats were originally created during World War II to help transport troops across land and sea. Following the war, the surplus boats were sold to private parties, many of whom repurposed the vehicles into watercraft for tour companies across the United States. 

Dozens of the Duck Boats were created by Ride the Ducks, including the one that sank last week. The company lengthened hulls of the boats, replaced several other parts, and then reassembled the vehicle. The new versions were christened "Stretch Ducks" and were designed and developed by McDowell. 

Photo: Getty Images

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