Dells duck boat operators reflect on Missouri tragedy

Published: Jul. 20, 2018 at 5:35 PM CDT
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After a duck boat in Missouri capsized, killing 17 people. the two major duck boat operators in Wisconsin Dells spoke about their heartache, and their safety concerns.

"The ducks that we are operating here in Wisconsin Dells are original World War II vehicles that were manufactured between 1942 and 1945." Original Wisconsin Ducks General Manager Dan Gavinski said.

Gavinski says he knows his ducks, and why they're different from the one that capized in Missouri that was operated by Ride The Ducks International.

"The vehicles that are used for Ride The Ducks International around the country are vehicles the company has manufactured," Gavinski said.

He says the manufactured boats have extended lengths to seat up to 32 people.

"Our ducks are only capable of carrying 21 passengers plus our driver." Gavinski said.

He also says the smaller size of Lake Delton, and the river ways the ducks travel help eliminate a lot of safety concerns if and when severe weather strikes.

"There’s an entrance and exit in there about 300 yards apart," Gavinski said. "So our vehicles can easily get out of the water in a very short time. Probably less than a minute."

Even with different ducks and a different body of water, Gavinski says his heart aches for the victims in Missouri. That sentiment is shared by Jason Field, the owner of Dells Army Ducks.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and the Branson team, and the family members that were involved in the incident." Field said.

Gavinski says Dells visitors should continue to enjoy tours on the amphibious vehicles. Less than 24 hours after the tragedy in Missouri, lines for duck boat tickets are steady and full duck boats are getting out on to the lake.

"We are a completely different operation," Gavinski said. "We’ve been operating for 73 years in Wisconsin Dells. We are the oldest continuous operation of any company in the world. We have an excellent safety record we have excellent standards."

A report by CNN breaks down duck boat related fatalities in the last 20 years by state. There are none reported in Wisconsin.