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Families of duck boat disaster victims file $100 million lawsuit



Ride the ducks
duck boat sank earlier this month in Missouri, killing 17


  • The owners and operators of the tourist duck boat that
    capsized in Missouri earlier this month have been sued by the
    estates of two of the nine members of a family who died in the
  • The lawsuit filed on Sunday asks for $100 million in
    damages on behalf the estates of Ervin Coleman, 76, and
    Maxwell Ly, 2.
  • Ripley Entertainment Inc., Ride the Ducks
    International, Ride the Ducks of Branson, the Herschend Family
    Entertainment Corp., and Amphibious Vehicle Manufacturing are
    named in the lawsuit.

The owners and operators of a tourist boat that sank earlier this
month in Missouri, killing 17 people, put profits over people’s
safety when they decided to put the Ride the Ducks boat on a lake
despite design problems and warnings of severe weather, a lawsuit

lawsuit filed Sunday
in US District Court in Kansas City
seeks $100 million in damages on behalf of two of nine members of
an Indiana family who died when the tourist boat sank July 19 at
Table Rock Lake near Branson. Others killed were from Arkansas,
Illinois and Missouri.

“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
lawsuit alleges.

Ripley Entertainment Inc., Ride the Ducks International, Ride the
Ducks of Branson, the Herschend Family Entertainment Corp., and
Amphibious Vehicle Manufacturing are named in the lawsuit, which
was filed by a team led by a Philadelphia-based legal firm that
has litigated previous lawsuits involving duck boats.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the estates of Ervin Coleman,
76, and Maxwell Ly, 2. Maxwell was identified by authorities as
Maxwell Coleman after the boat sank.

Court documents accuse Ripley Entertainment and the other
defendants of negligence, product liability, outrageous conduct,
wrongful death, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and
violating the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.

Prosecuting lawyer Robert J. Mongeluzzi said at a news conference
on Monday that the lawsuit will “search for answers and justice
for the victims” in the duck boat capsize.

“The quest for justice includes doing everything within our power
to ban duck boats once and for all,” he said. “As we have done in
other duck boat wrongful death cases, we will demonstrate at
trial why duck boats are death traps and why they should once and
for all be banned from operating on water and on land.”

Ripley Entertainment is accused of wrongful death and
emotional  distress

A Ripley spokeswoman said in a statement Monday that the company
remains “deeply saddened” by the accident and supportive of the
affected families.

She said the company would not comment further because a National
Transportation Safety Board is still underway and no conclusions
have been reached.

The lawsuit says the boat operators violated the company’s own
policies by putting the boat into the water despite the weather

It also says the captain violated protocol by not telling
passengers to put on life jackets when the water got rough and
instead lowering plastic side curtains, “thus further entrapping
passengers in the soon-to-sink vessel.”

The lawsuit cites an August 2017 report from private inspector
Steve Paul, who looked at two dozen of the duck boats.

The report warned Ripley Entertainment that the vessels’ engines
— and pumps that remove water from their hulls — were susceptible
to failing in bad weather.

Lawsuit claims boats were not upgraded

duck boat capsize disaster
of the Coleman family comfort each other at a casket during the
showing for Horace Coleman, Belinda Coleman, Irvin Coleman,
Angela Coleman and Maxwell Coleman Ly, Saturday, July 28, 2018,
in Indianapolis. Nine members of the Coleman family were killed
in a duck boat accident at Table Rock Lake near Branson,

Photo/Darron Cummings

It also accuses the defendants of ignoring warnings the NTSB
issued in 2000 that the vehicles, which are designed to operate
on land and water, should be upgraded to ensure the boats remain
upright and floating in bad weather.

The 2000 recommendation from the NTSB was issued after a duck
boat sank May 1, 1999, in Arkansas, killing 13 people.

When Robert McDowell, then-president of Ride the Ducks Branson,
responded that upgrades would require significant costs, NTSB
Chairman Jim Hall said the recommendations were made because the
agency believed “immediate action was necessary to avoid
additional loss of life.” The lawsuit says the defendants ignored
the warnings.

It also alleges McDowell designed and developed the stretch duck
boats, including the Stretch Duck O7 that sank, despite having no
engineering training.

The National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning
for the area including Table Rock Lake about 30 minutes before
the boat went onto the lake with 31 people on board.

Severe weather played a part in capsize

The NTSB said Friday that a preliminary review of video and audio
recordings from the boat showed that the lake changed from calm
to dangerous in a matter of minutes. The agency emphasized it had
not drawn any conclusions on what caused the boat to sink.

The captain, who operated the boat on the water, survived and has
acknowledged he was aware of the weather warnings before the
trip, according to the NTSB. Another crew member who operated the
boat on land was among those who died.

Duck boats were originally designed for the military,
specifically to transport troops and supplies in World War II.
They were later modified for use as sightseeing vehicles.

The attorney for the Coleman family, Mongeluzzi, said that
his clients “strongly urged us to do everything possible to ban
the duck boats so no other family has to endure the unimaginable
tragedy and grief that has devastated them,”
PR News Wire

Attorney Andrew R. Duffy, SMBB legal team member argued at
the press conference that defendants “absolutely knew for decades
that fatal design flaws, particularly the continuous, rigid
canopy and inadequate bilge pumps, in the World War II-era boats
made them more susceptible to sinking and that they were unfit
for use even on a clear, calm day.

“Despite their knowledge, Ride the Ducks violated its own safety
protocols by failing to even issue life jackets to passengers as
the storm approached.”

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