“This tragedy was the predictable and predicted result of decades of unacceptable, greed-driven, and willful ignorance of safety,” the suit says.
A federal lawsuit seeking $100 million has been filed on behalf of the family of several victims of a fatal duck boat sinking in Missouri that killed 17 people.
The suit was filed Sunday on behalf of several members of an Indiana family who lost nine family members when the duck boat capsized during a thunderstorm on July 19 near Branson, Missouri. Five children were among the 17 killed, authorities have said, and another 14 were injured.
The suit alleges that despite “being aware of impending severe weather conditions” the operators of the boat risked passengers’ lives by taking the boat out instead of offering them refunds.
“This tragedy was the predictable and predicted result of decades of unacceptable, greed-driven, and willful ignorance of safety by the Duck Boat industry in the face of specific and repeated warnings that their Duck Boats are death traps for passengers and pose grave danger to the public on water and on land,” the suit said, noting that duck boats have been involved in dozens of fatal accidents.
It also accuses Ripley Entertainment, Ride the Ducks International, Ride the Ducks of Branson, the Herschend Family Entertainment Corp., and Amphibious Vehicle Manufacturing of knowing that design flaws made the boats more susceptible to sinking and trapping people inside should a sinking occur.
“Prior to killing seventeen people in Branson, injuring fourteen others, and ruining the lives of countless more, Defendants had been told that design flaws in the Duck Boats made them more susceptible to sinking,” the suit said.
It also accuses the defendants of being repeatedly told to change the design of their boats to make them safer but ignoring those warnings.
The legal team that filed the suit has been involved in previous wrongful death cases involving duck boats. The suit notes duck boat accidents leading to deaths spanning nearly 20 years, including a May 1999 incident where 13 people drowned, a 2002 incident where four were killed and a 2015 incident where five were killed.
Ripley Entertainment did not immediately respond to request for comment on the lawsuit. The company told The Associated Press it remained “deeply saddened” about the incident.
Ripley spokeswoman Suzanne Smagala told the AP in a statement Monday that the company would not comment further because a National Transportation Safety Board investigation is ongoing and no conclusions have been reached.
The NTSB said Friday in a statement that they had completed an initial review of video and audio recordings from the boat accident. A log of what that video and audio revealed shows the waters went from appearing calm to waves and winds picking up in a matter of minutes.
According to NBC News’ Al Roker, storms had been forecast for the area on the day the boat sank.
“There was one line [of storms] that already moved through earlier in the afternoon, and then that second line starts coming in around 5, 6 o’clock and by 7, right on top of Branson,” Roker said.
The lawsuit also alleges that during a safety briefing, passengers were told they would not need their life jackets.
Tia Coleman, whose husband, three young children and five other family members died in the sinking, has said she believed her children could have been saved if she had been able to grab the life preservers.
“The biggest thing that stood out to me is, no matter what, I felt like if I was able to get a life jacket I could’ve saved my babies,” Coleman said. “Because they could’ve at least floated up to the top, and somebody could have grabbed them. And I wasn’t able to do that.”
Angela Coleman, 45; Belinda Coleman, 69; Ervin Coleman, 76; Glenn Coleman, 40; Horace Coleman, 70; and 1-year-old Arya Coleman; Maxwell Ly, 2; Evan Coleman, 7; and Reece Coleman, 9, lost their lives.
Also killed in the accident were William Asher, 69; Rosemarie Hamann, 68; Janice Bright, 63; William Bright, 65; Leslie Dennison, 64; Bob Williams, 73; Steve Smith, 53; and Lance Smith, 15, according to the sheriff’s office.