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Branson Mayor Karen Best Reacts To Tragic Duck Boat Accident


We're going to turn now to Branson, Mo., where 17 people were killed when a tourist duck boat capsized in a lake during sudden foul weather. Nine of the people killed were members of the same family, the Coleman family of Indiana. Karen Best is the mayor of Branson, Mo., and joins us now.

Mayor Best, thanks for being with us.

KAREN BEST: Thank you, Scott.

SIMON: First, I'm very sorry. This has to be a terrible time for the entire community. Is there any news that you know about the investigation or information as to why this amphibious tourist boat sank?

BEST: I can tell you that both the National Transportation Safety Board and the Coast Guard arrived yesterday, and they will be jointly running the investigation, with the NTSB taking the lead. Senator McCaskill and Senator Blunt were both in town yesterday, as well, and just assuring that the groups that are going to be running the investigation would be looking at everything - looking at training, looking at inspections, looking at the weather - everything that could have possibly been a factor in the accident.

SIMON: So I don't have to tell you, Mayor Best, there have been questions over the years - although there haven't been, as I understand, previous accidents in Branson. There have been questions raised over the years about duck boats and whether - you know, whether they're good for tourists, that they were built in a certain time during World War II to accomplish a certain mission, but they're not really good tourist vehicles. I'm wondering if you're having thoughts about that now.

BEST: You know, that's one of the things that I think we'll be looking at as we move forward with this attraction in our community. You know, anytime you have anything that has resulted in a loss of life, that's caused so much heartbreak in our community, I know you always want to look at everything that's involved with that entity. And so once the investigation is complete, I know that that's some of the things that we'll be looking at. You know, we are very committed to making sure that our citizens and our visitors both are safe and they're safe on anything that we have in town, whether that be an attraction or anything that has that same appeal and feel to it.

SIMON: Have you been able to speak with any of the survivors or family members of the victims?

BEST: Yes. We opened City Hall the evening of the incident and became the place for the families to come to gather, to grieve, to look for loved ones. As a community, we had counselors there to help them. We became a shoulder to cry on. We cried with them. It's very hard to step aside and not have emotions when you're dealing with this - first responders and the citizens and the visitors, as well. And so we walked alongside them. We held their hands. We grieved with them. And it's not been an easy experience. It's been very heart-wrenching. It really is - we're really a heartbroken community. We're usually a community of smiles, but for the past 24, 36 hours, we've been a community of tears and grieving.

SIMON: And so, as you say, the NTSB is going to continue their investigation, and you'll have your own interest there, too, I would imagine.

BEST: Yes, absolutely. We'll be looking forward to all the information. I can tell you the evening that the boat sank, I was out on my front porch, watching the storm as it was getting ready to arrive. And the weather changed almost on a dime. The winds came, and I was not expecting the severity of the storm that we received.

SIMON: Mayor Karen Best of Branson. Thanks so much.

BEST: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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