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Federal lawsuit seeks damages in Missouri duck boat sinking

By Ed Adamczyk
Federal lawsuit seeks damages in Missouri duck boat sinking
The U.S. Coast Guard raises a sunken boat, in which 17 people died, from Table Rock Lake near Branson, Mo., on July 21. A lawsuit on behalf of families of those who died, seeking $100 million in damages, was filed on Sunday. Photo by Nathan Papes/UPI

July 30 (UPI) -- A federal lawsuit seeks $100 million in damages in the July 19 sinking of a boat near Branson, Mo., that killed 17 people.

The 43-page lawsuit, filed Sunday in the Western District of Missouri's Southern Division, is on behalf of families of several victims, including one Indianapolis family who lost nine members. It accuses Ripley Entertainment, Ride the Ducks of Branson, Herschend Family Entertainment and other defendants of negligence, wrongful death and product liability.

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Seventeen people drowned when the boat on Table Rock Lake sank in 40 feet of water. The amphibious boat, which can travel on land or water and is known as a "duck boat," carried 29 passengers and two employees when it entered the lake as a severe storm approached. The storm battered the boat before it sank.

The lawsuit includes many accusations, notably that Ride the Ducks of Branson, the owner of the sunken boat, ignored warnings about safety hazards of its boats. It says that many of the boats used by the company are reconstructed military vehicles of World War II vintage. It also cites prior incidents involving duck boats and documents suggesting that Ride the Ducks officials did not heed safety recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board.

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It adds that Ripley Entertainment, owner of the duck boat company, was warned by an inspector about its boats' design. It alleges that Ripley risks lives by proceeding with the ride on July 19 instead of canceling it and issuing refunds; that some passengers were told that use of life jackets was not required, and that the tour schedule on July 19 was modified in an attempt to "beat the storm."

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