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Branson duck boat victims file lawsuits seeking millions in damages

The families of multiple victims killed in the July 19 Ride the Ducks Branson tragedy are seeking damages from several defendants. (Michael Thomas/Getty Images)

Two lawsuits have been filed seeking damages for the victims of the July 19 tragic sinking of a Ride the Ducks tourist boat in Branson, Missouri. Of the 31 tourists on board the vessel, 17 drowned when the boat sank during a storm on Table Rock Lake near Branson.

What does the first lawsuit say?

The Coleman family of Indianapolis lost nine family members in the accident. Attorneys representing the estates of two of them —76-year-old Ervin Coleman, and 2-year-old Maxell Coleman — filed a lawsuit in federal court against Ride the Ducks Branson and its parent company, Ripley Entertainment Inc., among other defendants.

Seeking $100 million in damages, attorney Robert J. Mongeluzzi said, "Duck boats are sinking coffins. 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 cites recommendations issued by the National Transportation Safety Board in 1999 following a similar incident where 13 people were killed when a duck boat sank in a lake near Hot Springs, Arkansas. Those recommendations included either banning the amphibious vehicles, or developing more stringent regulations on them like requiring the use of life vests, which passengers were not wearing in the Branson accident.

What about the other lawsuit?

On Monday, another suit was filed by the family of William and Janice Bright of Higginsville, Missouri, a couple who was also killed in the July 19 incident. Filed in the Taney County court in Forsyth, plaintiffs are seeking $25 million in damages against Ripley, as well as boat captain Kenneth McKee and boat driver Bob Williams. Williams also drowned when the boat sank.

That filing claims that the "defendants were well aware of the approaching storm, but rather than lose out on profit, they chose to try and beat the storm."

The suit continues, "The Duck Boat Tour is typically 70 minutes long, half on land and half in the water, but due to the approaching storm, defendants elected to alter and shorten the water portion in an attempt to beat the storm."

Dozens of people have been killed in multiple accidents involving duck boats over the past 20 years. The families of victims are suing for multiple claims, including wrongful death and negligence.


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