Our View

Sens. Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley, Missouri Republicans, are taking the helm on duck boat safety.

It's needed, and we're glad to see them do it.

The Globe's own investigation after the 2018 duck boat tragedy on Table Rock Lake as well as investigations by the National Transportation Safety Board made clear those 17 deaths were preventable. The industry knew about problems that existed with the boats because of previous accidents elsewhere, yet nothing had been done.

Among other things, the boats' metal frame and heavy chassis and transmission combined with the lack of reserve buoyancy means they sink quickly, and their low freeboard means passengers have little time to escape in an emergency.

The NTSB ruled that the Coast Guard's failure to require additional reserve buoyancy in the amphibious crafts was a contributing factor in the tragedy, as was the failure to require a safer type of overhead canopy that didn't hamper passenger escape. In effect, the canopy and side curtains on the boats in 2018 acted like a net, trapping passengers.

Former U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., had pushed for some tougher rules, as have Blunt and Hawley. Last week, the two Republicans reintroduced legislation to improve the safety of duck boats following NTSB recommendations, including making sure all boats have reserve buoyancy in the case of emergency flooding.

Blunt said the safety measures "are long overdue and need to go into effect immediately," and Hawley made the point that the best way to honor those who died "is to do our part in protecting safety on the water and passing this commonsense legislation."

We agree. We also note that Southwest Missouri is a tourist and water playground, but the weather can turn quickly, as it did that day on Table Rock. Taking additional safety measures makes sense.

Lawmakers missed an opportunity 20 years ago to impose these safety standards, following the sinking of a duck boat on Lake Hamilton in Arkansas that left 13 people dead. Nothing happened then.

Let's not miss another opportunity.

Trending Video