At least 11 people including children on Thursday drowned when an amphibious “duck boat” carrying 31 people capsized and sank in stormy weather on a lake in Missouri.
Divers will resume searching Table Rock Lake, near Branson, Missouri, for other victims on Friday, the day after the “Ride the Ducks” amphibious vehicle sank, Stone County Sheriff, Doug Rader, told reporters during a news conference late on Thursday.
Five people are still missing, the sheriff said.
Seven victims including two who are critically injured were treated at the Cox Medical Center in Branson, the hospital said on Twitter.
Officials opened Branson’s city hall to victims and family members and brought in clergy and the Red Cross to assist.
“The City of Branson may be small in size but it is big at its heart, which is why city officials wanted to extend a helping hand and a strong shoulder,” the city said in a statement.
Emergency crews responded to the incident shortly after 7 p.m. (0000 GMT) after thunderstorms rolled through the area, the fire district said on Twitter.
“There was some heavy wind. It was having problems through the wind,” Rader told reporters. “They were coming back towards land. There was actually two ducks. The first one made it out. The second one didn’t.”
National Weather Service meteorologist, Steve Linderberg, told the Springfield News-Leader newspaper that 63 miles (101 km) per hour winds were recorded at the Branson airport near the time of the incident.
“We had a line of very strong thunderstorms that caused 74 mph winds here in Springfield,” he told the newspaper, noting that winds were likely stronger on the lake.
Video footage shot by an eyewitness who was on shore showed strong waves tossing two duck boats side to side. The video clip was posted online by KY3.
Life jackets were on board the boat, Rader said.
The National Transportation Safety Board was sending investigators to the scene on Friday, the agency said on Twitter.
“Our number one priority is the families and our employees that were affected by this tragic accident,” said Suzanne Smagala-Potts, a spokeswoman for Ripley Entertainment, which owns the Ride The Ducks operation in Branson.
She could not confirm how many crew members were aboard the boat.
Duck amphibious vehicles are used on sightseeing tours around the world and have been involved in a number of fatal accidents in the past two decades.
The company that builds ducks, Ride the Ducks International LLC, agreed in 2016 to pay a $1 million fine after one of the vehicles collided with a bus in Seattle, killing five international students.
The company admitted to failing to comply with U.S. vehicle manufacturing rules.