During an intensely violent storm on Thursday, July 19, 2018, a duck boat capsized on Table Lake near Branson, Missouri. As of early Friday afternoon, 17 people have been pronounced dead. The boat left the dock with 31 people on board, including the captain and a crewmember.Another duck boat was also caught in the storm, however it made it back to shore. Videos taken from passengers on nearby showboats show the doomed duck boat taking on water and slowly sinking due to the high winds and intense, large waves buffeting the vessel.An off-duty police officer, marina workers, and passengers on a nearby showboat – including a member of the Iowa Army National Guard who is an emergency room nurse – leapt into action to rescue and treat the duck boat passengers. Their quick thinking, despite “extremely dangerous conditions,” saved the lives of multiple people.
Duck boat accident survivors and the loved ones of deceased victims can get justiceSurvivors of the Branson duck boat accident can get justice, as can the loved ones of the 17 people who lost their lives. You also deserve answers. You can get both, but you must act quickly as time is not on your side. Ripley Entertainment, the owner of the Branson duck boats, will already be taking steps to minimize their responsibility for the disaster. The three steps you need to take include:
- Consult an attorney right away. While you are recovering from this traumatic event, the company’s lawyers and insurance company are trying to find ways to get out of being held accountable. Investigations by governmental agencies and by the company are already underway. Nobody is working to protect your interests. Nobody is working to prevent this from happening again. That’s where an experienced, Board Certified personal injury trial attorney comes in.
- Do not sign any documents or give any statements to anyone from Ripley Entertainment, their insurance company, or anyone who is not your attorney. Companies use your recorded statements or your signature on documents against you when you try to settle your case. You are not legally required to sign anything or speak with them.
- Investigate to find out what happened. Again, this is where your attorney comes in. You want to get your investigation started right away. It can take years for a governmental agency to conclude an investigation. The company’s investigation is meant to get them off the hook. But to get access to the duck boat and all of the evidence, you will need your lawyer to help you find the right experts to investigate this type of case and to get a Temporary Restraining Order. This order, which your attorneys will get from a judge, will prevent any evidence from being tampered with, destroyed, damaged, or lost. This order also gives your experts and lawyers access to the boat, all the evidence, and the scene of the disaster so your independent investigation can be conducted. Investigators have already sent video recorders from both duck boats to D.C. to be analyzed. A Temporary Restraining Order would give your experts access to that crucial evidence now.
Meteorologists push back on claim that the duck boat tragedy was unavoidableWhile a storm warning had been issued for the area, the captain of the other duck boat said the weather was clear and calm when they departed on their tour.Experts are already speaking out about this tragedy, including meteorologists. The statement from the CEO of the duck boat’s parent company, Jim Pattison Jr., talks about how the “storm came out of nowhere.” Except it didn’t. Meteorologists predicted severe weather would occur in the area as early as 24 hours before the storm. In a Forbes article about meteorologists’ responses to this statement from Pattison, the American Meteorological Society is quoted as saying:
“A common theme in the after-action reports and service assessments for these disasters is that the weather plan was inadequate to deal with a comprehensive portfolio of weather risk, or a weather plan didn’t exist… Reducing the weather risk to life and property is a priority for the weather enterprise and the American Meteorological Society. Knowledge of, and investment in, pre-event planning and mitigation serves the nation economically as well as socially.”Was Mr. Pattison trying to let the company off the hook when he said the storm came out of nowhere? Or had he not watched the weather in the 24 hours leading up to the sinking of the duck boat? Either way, meteorologists are already poking very large holes in his defense. Duck boat companies are required to monitor the weather.After a duck boat sank in 1999 in an Arkansas lake, the Coast Guard standardized its guidelines for inspecting and certifying duck boats. These guidelines, which are still in place, recommend that local Coast Guard inspectors tell boat companies to stay off the water if winds exceed 28 mph and/or if waves are higher than one foot.
Why the Branson duck boat passengers may have been told not to wear their life jackets or flotation devicesThe National Transportation Safety Board’s report about the 1999 Arkansas duck boat tragedy, which took the lives of 13 people, was published in 2002. One finding in the report is that the canopies on duck boats restrict the horizontal and vertical escape of passengers. And that life jackets and flotation devices cause people to get trapped beneath the canopy, unable to escape. Therefore, they recommended that duck boats that have canopies not have passengers wear life jackets.Basic boating safety is that people wear life jackets all the time while on board. This finding seems to counter that safety rule. Several news outlets have reported that the passengers on the Branson duck boat were told not to wear their life jackets, causing public outrage. The general public sees this 16 year old finding unacceptable in 2018. Why haven’t duck boat companies come up with a better solution since these canopies appear to be death traps?
Is it time for duck boats to stop operating?Multiple incidents and fatal disasters have occurred on duck boats across the country in the past 25 years. Nearly 40 people have been killed in duck boat incidents in the United States alone in this time:
- The 1999 Arkansas disaster killed 13 people because their life jackets trapped them beneath the canopy.
- A duck boat sank in Lake Michigan in 2000. Thankfully, everyone survived.
- A 2002 incident on the Ottawa River in Canada killed four passengers who were also trapped under the duck boat’s canopy.
- In 2010, a bearing collapsed on a duck boat in Liverpool in the UK. This caused the duck boat to crash, injuring 4 people.
- In 2010 in Philadelphia, a barge plowed into a duck boat that had stalled on the Delaware River, killing two people.
- In 2010, a Boston duck boat lost use of its brakes and hit several cars, injuring five people.
- In 2013, a duck boat sank near the Salthouse Dock in Liverpool. Many passengers were taken to the hospital and everyone survived the sinking.
- In 2013 in London, a duck boat caught fire on the Thames River. A first responder told the BBC that one passenger found it “difficult” to get the life jackets out of their packaging.
- A Texas woman was struck and killed by a duck boat while she was crossing the street in Philadelphia in 2015.
- In 2015, a bus collided with a duck boat on the Aurora Bridge in Seattle, killing 4 students.
- A duck boat ran over a scooter in Boston in 2016, killing a woman and injuring a man.
- Another woman was struck and seriously injured by a duck boat at another Boston intersection in 2016.