$100 million lawsuit filed against operators in Missouri duck boat sinking

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A $100 million lawsuit has been filed against the owners of a tourist duck boat that sank July 19 and killed 17 people on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Mo. The lawsuit, filed July 28 in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, seeks damages on behalf of an Indiana family who lost nine members in the tragedy.

The lawsuit alleges that the owners of Ride the Ducks, the company that operated the tour boat, put profits before safety when they decided to head out on the lake despite design problems and warnings of severe weather, according to the Associated Press.

Ripley Entertainment, Ride the Ducks International, Ride the Ducks of Branson, the Herschend Family Entertainment Corp. and Amphibious Vehicle Manufacturing are named in the lawsuit.

"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," read the federal lawsuit.

The lawsuit cites a report from a private inspector in 2017, who warned Ripley Entertainment that the boats’ engines and bilge pumps could fail in foul weather. The lawsuit also states that the defendants ignored warnings from the National Transportation Safety Board in 2000 that the amphibious vehicles should be modified to remain upright in foul weather. The NTSB recommendation came after a duck boat sank May 1, 1999, in Arkansas, killing 13 people. The federal suit says 42 deaths have been associated with duck boats since 1999.

A second lawsuit was filed July 30 in Missouri state court on behalf of three daughters of William and Michelle Bright, a Higginsville, Mo., couple who died in the accident. The lawsuit seeks more than $125,000 in damages.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley also said yesterday his office was opening a criminal investigation under the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.

A Ripley spokeswoman said in a statement that the company remains "deeply saddened" by the accident. She declined further comment because an NTSB investigation is underway.