Lawsuit Against Missouri Boat Operator Seeks $100M, Alleges Canopy Dragged 17 Passengers to Bottom of Lake

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A wrongful death lawsuit seeking $100 million in damages has been filed against the operator of the duck boat that sank on a lake near Branson, Missouri, killing 17 passengers.

The lawsuit specifically says, “the canopy of the Duck Boat entrapped passengers and dragged them to the bottom of the lake,” adding that for two decades “defendants had been repeatedly told to change the design of their Duck Boats to make them safe, but they entirely ignored these warnings.”

The Ride the Ducks Branson amphibious vessel had 31 people on board when it left the shore July 19 on Table Rock Lake as a severe thunderstorm whipped up intense winds and waves. The boat capsized and sank, killing 17 people, aged 1 to 76, including nine members of the Coleman family.

The administrators of the estates of two family members who died, Ervin Coleman and Maxwell Ly, filed the lawsuit Sunday in US District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

The lawsuit alleges that Ripley Entertainment, Ride the Ducks International, Ride the Ducks Branson, Herschend Family Entertainment and Amphibious Vehicle Manufacturing knew prior to the catastrophe that the Duck Boat industry was “entirely unfit to be used for any purpose and had previously been responsible for dozens of deaths.”

“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 alleges.

CNN is reaching out to the defendants for comment.

None of the victims who died were wearing life jackets when they were found, a source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN. The vessel contained life jackets, but passengers weren’t required to wear them, according to Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the sinking. State investigators are also examining why the vessel changed the route it took that day, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley said.

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