Duck Boat Operator Hit with Suit Over Fatal Lake Tour

The maker and owner of the duck boat in Branson, Mo., that recently sank in severe weather should be held liable in the deaths of 17 passengers and the injuries of 14 others, a new federal civil suit says.

The lawsuit against Ripley Entertainment Inc., Ride the Ducks International LLC, and Ride the Ducks of Branson LLC, alleges the tourist boat was operated despite warnings of severe weather, according to the July 29 complaint.

The vehicle was also defectively designed and manufactured, John Coleman and other plaintiffs say in the suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of 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 suit says.

The family members seek both compensatory and punitive damages.

A spokewoman for Ripley declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said the Orlando, Fla.-based entertainment company remains “deeply saddened by the tragic accident that occurred in Branson and we are supportive of the affected families.”

“The investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board is still underway,” Suzanne Smagala said. “No conclusions have been reached, and we cannot comment at this time.”

The case is Coleman v. Ripley Entm’t, Inc., W.D. Mo., No. 18-cv-03225, filed 7/29/18.

(Updated with comments from a company spokesperson.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Steven M. Sellers in Washington at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Patrick at [email protected]