Family that lost nine relatives in duck boat sinking reaches settlement

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The Indianapolis family that lost nine relatives in last year’s fatal duck boat sinking has reached a settlement with the operator of the Ride the Ducks business in Branson, Mo.

Relatives of Ervin and Horace Coleman, brothers who were among the 17 people who died last year when a duck boat sank on Table Rock Lake, reached a settlement following a mediation session in January, according to the Kansas City Star.

“At this point, we have reached court-approved settlements with several families of the victims and are actively pursuing mediated resolutions with all others who were affected by the accident,” said Suzanne Smagala-Potts, a Ripley Entertainment spokeswoman, in a statement. “Out of respect for the privacy of the families, we are not discussing settlement details.”

It is the second settlement arising from the July 19, 2018, tragedy. In November, the adult daughters of William and Janice Bright of Higginsville, Mo., reached confidential settlements with Ripley Entertainment regarding their parents, who died celebrating their 45th anniversary on the duck boat ride.

The Ride the Ducks operation, which takes tourists on and around Table Rock Lake on amphibious, World War II-era vehicles, has faced a host of litigation since last year, and several lawsuits remain pending in federal and state courts.

Ripley Entertainment, the company that bought the Branson business late in 2017, is accused of ignoring severe weather warnings. A storm with winds exceeding 70 mph pummeled the duck boat with 31 people on board before it sank.

The duck boat industry has been criticized for not making safety improvements that were recommended following a 1999 duck boat catastrophe that killed 13 people in Arkansas.

In addition to the lawsuits, the captain of the sunken duck boat, Kenneth Scott McKee, faces a federal criminal charge of admiralty misconduct. He has pleaded not guilty.

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