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DYERSBURG, Tenn. — The Dyersburg State Gazette is defending a controversial cartoon that was published Tuesday that depicts a hearse bearing the “Ride the Ducks” logo – this just a week after 17 people lost their lives following an accident in Branson.

Thirty-one people were on the amphibious duck boat when it capsized on Table Rock Lake.  The boat went down Thursday evening after a sudden thunderstorm generated near-hurricane strength winds.

Nine of the people who died belonged to one Indiana familyOthers killed came from Missouri, Arkansas and Illinois. Seven survivors were taken to a Branson hospital, where the last patient was discharged Sunday.

The boat was raised from the water on Monday.

The very next day, the newspaper published a controversial cartoon without a caption.

Several hours later, the newspaper reportedly released an apology which has since been deleted. It was replaced by a picture of the cartoon with a caption clarifying the illustrator’s message.

They also included the following statement:

“While we are upset about the editorial cartoon, we are also losing sight of the way the creator intended to relay a message. The wording, along with the editorial cartoon, was done to bring awareness to the fact that people are dying in these types of tour vehicles. In no way did anyone on our staff mean any disrespect. The editorial cartoon alone is despicable. The message along with the cartoonwas meant to bring awareness to a senseless tragedy that could have been prevented and should be changed in the future to prevent further injuries and loss of lives. Look at the message along with the cartoon to have a better understanding of how this was construed by the individual who published this.
We must also remember editorial “cartoons” are not necessarily meant to be humorous. They are meant to be informative and are the opinions of the creator.”

That explanation was met with criticism.

“This is NOT the way to get a point across,” one person wrote. “This is horrible, despite the caption. Some of the deceased aren’t even in their final bodily resting place. Believe whatever you want, twist it, wring it out. The fact is that this depiction is despicable and lower than low. “

“Yet you didn’t print the editorial cartoon as it was ment to be,” said another. “You chose to print it without the caption , you went for shock value only.”

“The survivors lost a mother, a brother, husband, sister… Joke or not, lives were lost and this was simply a miss.”