Donations for duck tragedy continue to support families and responders

Friday, July 19 marks one year since the duck boat tragedy on Table Rock Lake. Seventeen people died when the amphibious vehicle sank in a storm.

In the midst of the tragedy, people locally and across the nation donated thousands of dollars. Some of that money went immediately to the families of victims and some of it continues to support the local agencies here who responded to the incident.

"Nobody knew at that time how truly awful it was going to be," Table Rock Lake Chamber of Commerce President Sheila Thomas said.

Thomas was at a local event, along with several Stone County responders, when she got the news about the accident almost a year ago.

"The deputy coroner leans over and says, 'I gotta go. At least four dead,'" Thomas recalls.

Unfortunately, the reality was worse than that initial report. Seventeen people lost their lives.

"Everybody wanted to help," Thomas said.

That's why the Table Rock Chamber and the Branson Chamber organized trusted a way for people to give.

"Donations were just coming in, I mean, fast and furious from all over the place," Thomas said.

Distributed by the Skaggs Foundation, about $85,000 went directly to the family of the 17 victims.

"This was just our best way to express our sympathy to them," Thomas said.

However, wasn't only that immediate help that was given.

"That's our place to respond in the mid to long term recovery," Ashley Silva, with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, said.

Nearly $95,000 was raised through the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. Most of that money was used to help support local responders.

"We are trusted and we will steward those donations appropriately," Louise Knauer, with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, said.

The foundation gave more than $21,000 to The Southern Stone County Fire Department to buy a new rescue boat, about $9,000 to the Taney County Sheriffs Department for water rescue training and equipment, and about $20,000 for a mobile command center for the Stone County Sheriff's Office.

"People look back on it, remember it, and still grieve," Thomas said.

While people remember the tragedy this week, Thomas says it's also important to remember the good.

"It was a horrible, horrible tragedy, but I appreciate talking about the positive thing that came out of it and that was that this community showed what we are made of," Thomas said.

The Community Foundation of the Ozarks says there is still about $3,000 in that fund. It's money intended for agencies that responded to the accident. They're hoping to distribute that in the near future.