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Branson community and visitors react to deadly Ride the Ducks tragedy

BRANSON, Mo. -- Two days after the “Ride The Ducks” boat sunk, the atmosphere in Branson, a typically upbeat town, is somber.

FOX4's Melissa Stern spoke with both locals and visitors about the questions they hope will be answered -- and changed they're already seeing.

“Why they didn`t have their life preservers on when they first went out?” said Lana Cardwell, who lives in Branson.

It's a question on many people's minds after hearing 17 people died and 14 more injured when a Ride the Ducks boat sank Thursday night in Table Rock Lake near Branson.

“And they had the warning to know the storm was coming in, they shouldn`t have taken those boats out,” Cardwell added.

A woman signs a poster outside the Ride the Ducks building in Branson on July 21, 2018.

The National Weather Service had issued a severe thunderstorm watch for Table Rock Lake area from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

About a half hour before that duck boat launched, the NWS issued a severe thunderstorm warning.

“We were actually at the pool when the storm hit the day before, though we had 10 of the 15 people in our party going on the boat. But the day the storm hit, luckily we were already done with that. We were back at the resort swimming when the storm kicked in. It did come in pretty quick. We hurried back to the room. The wind picked up; trees were whipping around. Then the power went out for about 6 hours,” said Steve Naragon, who was in town visiting with family.

Those who live in Branson and the visitors believe this could have all been avoided.

“As far as the tourists, I think it`s kind of scared them,” Cardwell said.

“I think safety measures need to be taken,” Naragon said.

And some tourists said other businesses in the area are already taking notice.

“We were at a ride yesterday, and I think some of the rides are being more aware of the weather, shutting down, being more strict with when they shut down with lightning strikes in the area and everything than maybe they did before,” Naragon said.

Now, people from all over are coming to the Ride the Ducks building to leave gifts and flowers out front, showing their support any way they can.

“It helps us remember and helps us to be grateful for every day, and hopefully it will be comforting for the families,” said Katie Garrett, a tourist who stopped by with her grandchildren.

Survivors have told the media that the boat captain told passengers there was no need to wear life jackets, even shortly before sinking when the winds and waves appeared dangerous.