On the evening of July 19, 2018, an amphibious tour vehicle, called a Duck Boat, carrying 31 people capsized and sank on Table Rock Lake, just outside of Branson, Missouri. Seventeen people, including children, were killed in what is now the deadliest Duck Boat accident in United States history.
Forecasters had warned about a potentially devastating thunderstorm, which reached Table Rock Lake early in the evening while two Duck Boats were still on the water. High winds in the area reaching over 60 mph churned large, choppy waves.
Video footage from onlookers shows the two Duck Boats being tossed around as water sprayed from every direction. One of the Duck Boats lagged behind the other, repeatedly nosediving through wave after wave.
“That duck, I don’t know if they’re going to make it back,” a man is overheard saying in one of the videos. The lead Duck Boat was able to make it safely back to shore, but the storm and high waves proved too much for the second Duck Boat, which sank into the lake shortly after 7:00 p.m.
Authorities and some onlookers from other vessels dove into the water to help the passengers and crew from the capsized duck, successfully rescuing several victims. However, 17 people—more than half of those on board—lost their lives in the Table Rock Lake Duck Boat accident.
Duck Tour Boat Was Owned by Ride the Ducks Branson
The duck tour boat was owned by Ride the Ducks Branson, a company that takes tourists on excursions of the Ozarks on both land and water using the amphibious vehicles. Ride the Ducks International is a national Duck Boat tour operator with locations throughout the U.S. Ripley Entertainment purchased the Branson operation of Ride the Ducks last year, according to a spokeswoman for Ripley.
Jim Pattison Jr., the president of Ripley Entertainment, acknowledged that the Duck Boat should not have been in the water “if what happened happened” during an interview with CBS This Morning.
Missouri Duck Boat Lawsuit
The law firm of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman is investigating this preventable tragedy at Table Rock Lake. The Missouri Duck Boat tour incident is one of several fatal incidents involving duck tour vehicles. Despite a pattern of safety lapses, these amphibious tour vehicles continue to operate freely throughout the country.
If you or a loved one were harmed in the Missouri Duck Boat tour incident, it is in your best interest to speak with an experienced attorney about your claim. Our firm is currently representing victims from another preventable Duck Boat tragedy in Seattle. In the wake of that accident, the manufacturer of the Ride the Ducks amphibious vehicle agreed to pay up to $1 million in civil fines for violating federal safety regulations.
“While the investigation into the Branson Duck Boat accident will likely take months to complete, it is clear those two boats had no business being out on the water,” says attorney Timothy A. Loranger. “A severe thunderstorm watch had been in effect for more than seven hours, and a severe thunderstorm warning was issued more than half an hour before law enforcement was called about the capsized boat; this was preventable.”
“The other issue is the Duck Boats themselves—these amphibious vehicles were not originally designed for recreational tourist excursions, especially with large groups in dangerous weather,” says Loranger.
“There were 31 people in tight quarters aboard a boat that rides low in the water with a canopy and windows. How were they supposed to safely evacuate once the boat took on water? If they had a life jacket on once the boat capsized, they would have been trapped in the canopy. If they did not have a life jacket on, they would have nothing to keep them afloat if they happened to make it to the surface.”
To speak with an attorney about filing a Duck Boat lawsuit, please contact us or call (855) 948-5098 today for a free case evaluation.
Previous Duck Tour Accidents in Seattle, Arkansas, and Philadelphia
Five Killed in Fatal Duck Boat Accident in Seattle (2015)
On Sept. 24, 2015, a Duck Boat tour vehicle operating on land collided with a charter bus, killing five people injuring many others. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded that the accident was caused by a mechanical failure of the left front axle of the Duck Boat vehicle.
The duck tour vehicle involved in the Seattle accident was manufactured or remanufactured by a company called Ride the Ducks International, which arranged duck tours in Branson until Ripley purchased the company last year.
According to the NTSB, Ride the Ducks International improperly designed and manufactured the amphibious vehicle, failed to adequately address a known safety issue related to cracks in the axel, and failed to register the vehicle with the National Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), which would have provided proper oversight.
Ride the Ducks of Seattle, the owner, and operator of the amphibious vehicle failed to adequately maintain the vehicle and failed to perform required repairs also related to the known issue in the axel, per the NTSB report.
In 2016, Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman attorney Timothy A. Loranger filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Estate of Claudia Derschmidt, one of the five killed in the accident. The wrongful death lawsuit alleges that the Duck Boat vehicle had a known defect in the axle, which caused the driver to lose control of the vehicle and cross over the double yellow line into oncoming traffic.
The lawsuit claims to Ride the Ducks International is strictly liable for all damages because the duck tour vehicle was not reasonably safe. Furthermore, Ride the Ducks International allegedly failed to provide adequate warnings or maintenance and repair instructions for the repair of the Duck Boat vehicle prior to the Seattle accident.
According to the lawsuit allegations against Ride the Ducks Seattle, the company was negligent in many respects, including, but not limited to:
- Failing to properly inspect, maintain, and repair the Duck Boat vehicle.
- Failing to use reasonable care to detect and remedy hazardous defects.
- Failing to address a 2013 safety notice issued by Ride the Ducks International.
- Failing to properly train and supervise its mechanics and drivers.
- Operating an unsafe, dangerous and defective Duck Boat vehicle on a state highway known to have inadequate lane width to accommodate the Duck Boat.
- Requiring drivers to function as both tour guides and drive their vehicles simultaneously.
In December of 2016, Ride the Ducks International agreed to pay up to $1 million in civil fines for violating federal safety regulations. Litigation stemming from this crash is still ongoing.
NTSB Says Driver Heard Noise Before Duck Boat Crash
Two Killed in Duck Boat Accident Outside of Philadelphia (2010)
On July 7, 2010, a tugboat towing a barge collided with a disabled Duck Boat on the Delaware River just outside of Philadelphia. Two Hungarian tourists were killed in the accident and nearly 20 other people were injured.
According to the NTSB, the accident occurred because the tugboat pilot was distracted by his cell phone. Federal investigators also criticized the Duck Boat vehicle operator, Ride the Ducks, saying its actions contributed to the fatal collision.
The families of the deceased tourists and others who were injured in the accident filed lawsuits against Ride the Ducks and K-Sea Transportation, the company that operated the tugboat. The lawsuits resolved with a $17 million settlement.
13 Dead After Duck Boat Takes on Water in Arkansas (1999)
On May 1, 1999, the Miss Majestic Duck Boat sank in Lake Hamilton with 20 passengers and an operator on board. Thirteen people, including three children, were killed.
An investigation into the Arkansas Duck Boat accident revealed that all but one of the individuals on board were trapped by the Duck Boat’s canopy roof. As the boat sank, six passengers and the operator were able to free themselves swim for the surface, where they were rescued by other boaters.
The NTSB concluded that the Duck Boat operator failed to properly repair and maintain it. The report further noted that there was not enough reserve buoyancy in the vehicle, the canopy roof was problematic, and the Coast Guard failed to provide proper oversight.
MO Duck Boat Accident Updates
Tia Coleman Wants Duck Boats Banned | Aug. 17, 2018
Tia Coleman, who lost nine family members in the Branson Duck Boat sinking, said she wants Duck Boats banned, calling the amphibious vehicles “death traps.” Speaking with reporters on August 14, Coleman called the tragedy preventable and said she wants to make sure other families do not experience a similar loss.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued its preliminary report on the Duck Boat that capsized and sank last month amid a severe storm.
According to the report, the “Stretch Duck 7” sank at 7:05 p.m. in 15 feet of water, then came to rest on the lake floor at a depth of approximately 70 feet. A severe thunderstorm alert was in place at the time of the accident, and data indicated a nearby vessel encountered wind gusts reaching over 70 mph.
NTSB officials are attempting to access data from the Duck Boat’s video recording system hard drive. Engineers were able to access video of the incident from a SIM card that was recovered, and the investigative team has reviewed the footage. Other cell phones and a camera were recovered and shipped to NTSB laboratories for analysis.
Missouri to Investigate Duck Boat Sinking | July 30, 2018
The office of Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley is investigating the Duck Boat crash to determine if criminal charges should be filed. Investigators will look into whether the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act was violated. If it was, criminal charges could be laid, although officials have not said who might face such charges.
On July 27, 2018, the NTSB released preliminary findings detailing the final minutes before the Duck Boat sank. The agency was able to gather information from the boat’s video recorder system, which included audio and video feeds from five angles. Although the sound quality varies, the NTSB pieced together some of the final events.
Among those events:
- At 6:50 local time,10 minutes before the winds increased—the captain gave a safety briefing, including the location of the emergency exits and the life jackets;
- approximately 3 minutes later, the captain made a call over a handheld radio. That call was unintelligible to investigators;
- moments later, a bilge alarm went off. The captain made a motion that may have shut off the alarm. He then made a second call over the handheld radio. That call was also unintelligible to investigators;
- the recording’s final minutes showed water occasionally splashing into the Duck Boat;
- the video ends at 7:08. At that time, the Duck Boat was still on the water’s surface.
A full report could take a year or more to be released.
Duck Tour Accident Victims Identified | July 21, 2018
Authorities identified the deceased victims from the Duck Boat accident outside of Branson, Missouri:
- William “Bill” Asher, 69, of Missouri
- Janice Bright, 63, of Missouri
- William Bright, 65, of Missouri
- Angela Coleman, 45, of Indiana
- Arya Coleman, 1, of Indiana
- Belinda Coleman, 69, of Indiana
- Ervin Coleman, 76, of Indiana
- Evan Coleman, 7, of Indiana
- Glenn Coleman, 40, of Indiana
- Horace Coleman, 70, of Indiana
- Maxwell Coleman, 2, of Indiana
- Reece Coleman, 9, of Indiana
- Leslie Dennison, 64, of Illinois
- Rosemary Hamann, 68, of Missouri
- Lance Smith, 15, of Arkansas
- Steve Smith, 53, of Arkansas
- Robert “Bob” Williams, 73, of Missouri
William “Bill” Asher and his girlfriend, Rosemary Hamann, were on vacation together. Known to be “the life of the party” among their friends, the couple lived in St. Louis.
William and Janice Bright were celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary with a trip to Branson. The Brights were longtime Kansas City residents, then moved out to Higginsville. They are survived by three children and 17 grandchildren.
The Colemans were on a family vacation. Tia Coleman and 10 of her relatives boarded the Duck Boat. Only she and her 13-year-old nephew were able to escape with their lives when the boat capsized and sank. Her husband, three of her children, and five other family members were killed. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the Coleman family in their time of need. As of July 23, 2018, nearly $500,000 has been raised.
Leslie Dennison was aboard the Duck Boat with her granddaughter. Her son, Brian, told the media that Leslie saved her granddaughter’s life when the Duck Boat capsized and sank.
Steve Smith was with his daughter, Loren, and son, Lance, on the Duck Boat when tragedy struck. Loren survived, but Steve and Lance were killed. Steve was the deacon of Osceola Church of Christ on Osceola, Arkansas.
Bob Williams, known around Branson as “Captain Bob” was the Duck Boat driver. The captain of the Duck Boat, 51-year-old Kenneth Scott McKee, survived the accident.
Another GoFundMe page was set up for all of the victims of the Table Rock Lake Duck Boat accident.