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Former Army duck-boat driver saddened by tragedy at Table Rock Lake

Posted at 5:29 PM, Jul 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-20 19:08:23-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The deaths of 17 people in a duck-boat incident at Table Rock Lake in Branson devastated Korean War veteran Rudy McCallop from Lee's Summit, who was in charge of a fleet of military duck boats during the Korean War.

McCallop remembers shuttling soldiers from island to island 1950.

He watched the video from Thursday of a duck boat on Table Rock Lake being battered by high waves and strong winds before it capsized and sank to the bottom of the lake in horror.

More than half of the 31 people aboard, including 29 passengers and two crew members, were killed. Seven of the 14 survivors were injured.

WATCH: The duck boat that sank on Table Rock Lake struggles in high waves, squall

LISTEN: Hear some of the scanner traffic as tragedy unfolds on Table Rock Lake

It all left McCallop, like so many others, wondering why it happened.

"In my personal opinion, it's a tragedy that should never have happened," McCallop said.

McCallop was particularly curious why 31 people were on board the duck boat that capsized. He believes it's too many people.

"We were only allowed to have a squad of men on one duck at one time," he said. "A squad of men consisted of 12 soldiers."

McCallop also wondered if anyone was wearing a life jacket.

A few years ago, he was in Branson and rode in one of the ducks on Table Rock Lake. The driver let McCallop get behind the wheel for ol' time's sake, but he said he was never offered a life jacket and never informed if life jackets were on board.

"I didn't have one (a life jacket) and the rest of the tourists did not have any one," he said. "The main driver did not have any on."

Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader said life jackets were on the boat that sank, but it's unclear how many, if any, of the passengers and crew were wearing a safety device.

In addition to sheriff's deputies and the Missouri State Highway Patrol, representatives from the Coast Guard, National Transportation Safety Board and Occupational Safety and Health Administration were in Branson to investigate the crash and the conditions that led to the catastrophe.