Boat in Deadly Missouri Sinking Was Designed by Entrepreneur With No Engineering Training, Court Records Show

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Recovery efforts of a boat that sank in a Missouri lake continued on July 23, 2018. (Credit: CNN)

Recovery efforts of a boat that sank in a Missouri lake continued on July 23, 2018. (Credit: CNN)

The duck boat that sank in a Missouri lake last week, killing 17 people, was built based on a design by a self-taught entrepreneur who had no engineering training, according to court records reviewed by the Los Angeles Times.

The designer, entrepreneur Robert McDowell, completed only two years of college and had no background, training or certification in mechanics when he came up with the design for “stretch” duck boats more than two decades ago, according to a lawsuit filed over a roadway disaster in Seattle involving a similar duck boat in 2015.

Officials have not given an official cause for why Stretch Duck 7, the amphibious boat owned by Ride the Ducks, sank during a storm on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Mo., while carrying 31 people on a sightseeing tour.

The Seattle lawsuit did not directly tie McDowell’s design credentials to duck boat tragedies that occurred on water, but in recent days, safety experts, lawyers and U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) have raised concerns about the design and oversight of duck boats, a popular watercraft for sightseers that also has wheels and can drive on land.

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