Branson, Missouri is a small city in the state’s southwestern Ozark region near the Arkansas border. Its population of about 11,000 year-round residents swells to over a million in the summer when tourists flock to the area, drawn by its picturesque rivers and lakes. The Mini-Circuits office on West Main Street is about a 15-minute drive from Table Rock Lake where Thursday, July 19, an amphibious Duck Boat sank in a severe thunderstorm, killing 16 passengers and one crew member.
The Midwest is well-known for its intense, fast-moving thunderstorms that can bring destructive winds and tornadoes. The evening of the accident, Mini-Circuits customer service manager, Kim Sainato, who works out of the Branson office went to the gym after work as usual. She remembers the weather being calm when she walked in, but as she was getting ready to leave around 7 p.m., her husband texted her and told her to stay inside. Her daughter, who works at the State Park Marina on Table Rock Lake called and told her that the marina had been evacuated due to the storm. The winds that evening reached 70 miles per hour, and in the 30 minutes it took for the storm to pass, one of the two Duck Boats still on the lake had capsized and sunk.
The tragedy spread through headlines across the country, prompting an outpouring of sympathy and support for the victims’ families. The National Bureau of Safety and Transportation conducted an on-site investigation the week following the accident, but a complete analysis of what went wrong will take up to a year to complete. The Ripley’s Believe It or Not company that owns Ride the Ducks Branson closed the operation during the investigation while continuing full pay for employees. On Friday evening, hundreds of Branson residents gathered in the Ride the Ducks parking lot for a candlelight vigil to mourn and reflect on the sudden and terrible loss.
While thankfully no Mini-Circuits team members were directly harmed in the incident, these events hit close to home for the Branson office. A member’s daughter was working at the marina through the storm when the accident occurred. An account manager’s boyfriend is a Duck Boat captain who normally works the 6 p.m. tour shift. Fortunately, he had the evening of July 19 off. Another member’s daughter was working at the hospital when the victims came in. The tragic event was deeply felt by entire the Branson community and will not soon fade from memory.
We all have responsibilities and important roles within the company, but we are also citizens, neighbors, and friends within the communities where we do business. When crises and tragedies like this strike, it affects us on a personal level, be it directly or indirectly. It’s times like these that it’s most important to come together and support each other within the company and the greater community as we did in 2012 through Hurricane Sandy in Brooklyn and through the devastating 2015 floods in Chennai, India.
Mini-Circuits will make a donation in support of Branson and the victims’ families. We wish all those affected by this tragedy peace as they recover in the weeks and months ahead.