The boat sank on July 19, 2018 in Table Rock Lake near Branson, a popular family vacation spot. Amphibious duck boats can offer passenger tours on water and on land.
Scott McKee, Curtis Lanham and Charles Baltzell were charged on 47-point indictment, which was overturned in June 2019.
McKee was the boat’s captain in 2018. Lanham was the general manager of Ride the Ducks Branson, and Baltzell was the manager on duty the day the boat sank.
In a verdict issued on Friday, West Missouri District Court Judge David P. Rush recommended a joint motion by the defendants to dismiss the charges of “lack of admiralty justice”.
The judge also recommended that other remaining motions that are pending “be rejected as in dispute”
CNN has asked attorneys at the US Department of Justice for an answer.
One of the reasons Rush dismissed the charges was because, under an Eighth Circuit precedent, Table Rock Lake is not considered navigable under Admiralty Act.
Rush’s ruling states that if the three defendants are to be prosecuted, the case should be handled at the state level, not the federal court.
The McKee legal team said the sinking was due to “a dissimilar wind and rain storm known as the Derecho, where the wind preceded the storm front seven to eight miles,” the legal team said in an email to CNN.
“The sinking of Stretch Duck 7 was a terrible tragedy,” Lanham’s attorney Tom Bath said in an email to CNN. “We believe the tragedy was caused by a one-off storm, and not by the action or neglect of Curtis or any other staff member.”
Baltzell attorney Justin Johnston said he agreed with Rush’s recommendation to dismiss the indictment of lack of jurisdiction.