A major announcement concerning the duck boat tragedy is being made today. KOLR-TV reports several lawyers in Kansas City who are representing some of the victims of the recent tragedy that took 17 lives are holding a news conference.
One of the attorneys is Robert Mongeluzzi, a prominent Philadelphia attorney who has represented victims of Duck Boat accidents in the past. According to his law firm, Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett & Bendesky, at least 43 people have died in Duck Boat accidents in the United States since 1999.
An attorney with the firm, Andrew Duffy, secured a $17 million settlement for the families of two Hungarian tourists killed in a Duck Boat incident on the Delaware River in Philadelphia in 2012. The families of the Dora Schwendter and Szabolcs Prem split $15 million, and nearly 20 other victims who involved in the accident split $2 million.
Duffy says the Duck Boat industry has irresponsibly portrayed their excursions as fun and entertaining experiences while ignoring safety concerns. “These are not all fun and games,” said Duffy. They are very serious vessels with a horrific safety record and the should be banned.”
The recent Missouri tragedy occurred July 19th when a Ride the Ducks boat sank in Table Rock Lake near Branson during hurricane force winds that caused four-foot swells in the water. Design flaws and canopy roofs that trap passenger in the rapidly sinking boats that are constructed of heavy steel are blamed for causing the fatalities.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a report in 2002 on the Miss Majestic duck boat that sank on Lake Hamilton near Hot Springs, Arkansas in 1999, killing 13 out of 21 passengers. It reached a similar but wider conclusion, blaming the death toll on the vehicle’s lack of adequate buoyancy that would have allowed it to remain afloat in a flooded condition, as well as a shortage of adequate oversight by the Coast Guard, and a canopy roof that tends to entrap passengers.
Duffy says operators haven’t been forced to address safety concerns because of regulatory failures over the modified World War II landing vehicles. “One of the problems with Duck Boats is they are neither fully truck nor fully boat,” Duffy said. ‘So, because of that, they slip into the gray area of regulations.”
The Coast Guard has compiled 12 “Incident Investigation Reports” involving “passenger” “inspected” stretch ducks since 2013. All of them have involved an equipment or propulsion failure or a loss of steering. 10 of them involved stretch ducks operated by Ride the Ducks International or Ripley Entertainment on Table Rock Lake. Ripley Entertainment purchased the Table Rock operation late last year.
Ripley Entertainment has declined to comment on the incident involving its Duck Boat in Table Rock Lake to Missourinet. A spokesperson said the company’s website is “all we can offer at this point.” Ripley is offering to assist impacted families with expenses.
KOLR reports Gregory Aleshire, a Springfield attorney, is listed as a member of the legal team gathering for the news conference. Aleshire is a partner in the Alshire, Robb, and Rapp law firm. Their website refers to them as “personal injury attorneys”. The conference starts at 10:30 this morning.