The “Duck” involved in the death of 17 people on Table Rock Lake, when it sunk during a storm on July 19, 2018, was operated from its base in Branson, by Ripley Entertainment Inc. Jim Pattison, Jr, the President of Ripley’s, was interviewed live, via telephone, on “CBS Good Morning” on the morning of July 20, 2018, the day after the incident.
“Believe It Or Not,” during the initial stages of the interview Pattison said, “It was a fast-moving storm that came out of basically nowhere.” Oh wait for it, it gets better! He was asked, “Should the boat have been out on the water Mr. Pattison, weren’t the weather reports calling for bad weather?” He replied, “No, it shouldn’t have been in the water if what happened, happened.” And he’s not done yet! Pattison goes on to complete the Trifecta by saying “We had other boats in the water earlier, and it had been a calm experience, until this came up very suddenly.”
To fully evaluate whether or not these three statements could qualify as a “Trifecta of the Most Inane Utterings of All Time,” the National Weather Service’s definitions of “Severe Thunderstorm,” “Severe Thunderstorm Watch,” and “Severe Thunderstorm Warning” should be considered. A “Severe Thunderstorm” is defined as “a thunderstorm that produces a tornado, winds of at least 58 mph (50 knots or ~93 km/h), and/or hail at least 1” in diameter. A “Severe Thunderstorm Watch” is issued “when conditions are favorable for the development of Severe Thunderstorms in and close to the watch area…The size of the watch can vary depending on the weather situation….During the watch, people should review severe thunderstorm safety rules and be prepared to move to a place of safety if threatening weather approaches.” A “Severe Thunderstorm Warning” is issued “when either a Severe Thunderstorm is indicated by the WSR-88D radar or a spotter reports a thunderstorm producing hail one inch or larger in diameter and/or winds equal or exceed 58 miles an hour; therefore, people in the affected area should seek safe shelter immediately.”
Now lets look at the three statements making up the Trifecta one at a time:
1. “A fast moving storm that came out of basically nowhere!” Really, hadn’t there been a “Severe Thunderstorm Watch” for the Branson area since 11:20 AM on July 19th? Weren’t the watches ungraded to “Severe Thunderstorm Warnings,” with the latest and most specific issued at 6:32 PM, well before the boat entered the water, and identifying Table Rock Lake specifically as an area to be impacted?
2. “No, it shouldn’t have been in the water if what happened, happened.” This was in response to a question specifically asking whether or not the boat should have been in the water, given the weather. To an Ole Seagull, these are some of the most inane words he has ever head. There was no “if” to it! At the time Pattison said them, 13 or more bodies had been recovered and there was a “Duck” at the bottom of Table Lake testifying to the fact that “what happened, happened” and he either knew that or should have.
3. “We had other boats in the water earlier and it had been a calm experience until this came up very suddenly.” Really? How many of them had their itinerary modified to do the water portion of the trip first instead of last prior to leaving on the trip? How many of those earlier trips went into the water under a “Severe Thunder Storm Warning?”
There will be investigations, legal actions, and relatively speaking, volumes written, about the incident including weather, bilges, life vests, safety procedures etc. At the end of the day however, Pattison’s answer to the question about whether or not the boat should have been in the water at that time, “No, it shouldn’t have been in the water…,” focuses an Ole Seagull’s mind on what he believes was the primary causative factor in a tragic incident that, “Believe It Or Not,” should never have happened!