Judge Alan Blankenship wrote the court did not find probable cause the defendants acted “recklessly” or “knowingly” when they took the duck boat out onto Table Rock Lake as high winds approached.
“This court feels great sadness for this needless loss of life, and the impact on the victims’ family and friends. However, because the court does not find sufficient evidence to support the mens rea or intent required for the charges at issue, as defined by Missouri law, the court dismisses each count against each defendant,” he wrote.
The case was dismissed without prejudice, meaning prosecutors can retry the case.
In a probable cause statement, prosecutors accused McKee of wrongdoing in deciding to enter the lake during a severe thunderstorm warning and failing to follow policy by not directing passengers to put on personal flotation devices.
The nearly two-year-long NTSB probe found a “systemic problem with the company as a whole,” an investigator said at a board meeting in 2020. The board decided against specifically naming the captain of the Stretch Duck 7 in its findings of fault.
“You can’t know what you don’t know,” NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said, noting when the vessel arrived at the shore of Table Rock Lake on July 19, 2018, “it was glassy smooth on that lake.”
Judge Blankenship, citing the investigation, noted in his ruling there was no evidence McKee, Lanham or Baltzell knew of the incoming high winds.
A joint statement by JR Hobbs and Marilyn Keller, attorneys for McKee; Tom and Tricia Bath, attorneys for Lanham; and Justin Johnston and Jon Bailey, attorneys for Baltzell said they respect the decision to dismiss.
“This has been a tragedy for all who were affected. We do not believe (any) further comment is appropriate at this time,” they said.
“We respect and agree with the Court’s decision,” Lanham’s attorney Tricia Bath added. “It has long been our position that the tragic loss of life was not the result of any criminal act by our client or anyone else. Judge Blankenship heard a great deal of evidence from both sides and rendered a decision that we believe correctly reflects the evidence in the case.”
Quoted from Various Sources
Published for: The Bloggers Briefing