Attorneys for the family of nine people killed in the Branson area Duck Boat mishap announced a second federal lawsuit Tuesday.
Coleman family members appeared at an emotional news conference in their hometown of Indianapolis as a suit was introduced that represents the estates of 45-year-old Angela Coleman and 69-year-old Belinda Coleman.
The complaint seeks unspecified damages but largely mirrors the $100 million lawsuit filed Sunday for 76-year-old Ervin Coleman and 2-year-old Maxwell Ly.
Current operator Ride the Ducks Branson and previous owner Ride the Ducks International and their parent companies are named as defendants who designed and manufactured Stretch Duck 07, the vehicle that sank during a heavy storm July 19th on Table Rock Lake, killing a total of 17 individuals.
Both lawsuits enter nine counts against the defendants. One of them, a possible violation of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, is the basis of a separate criminal investigation made public Monday by the state attorney general’s office.
The suits allege that the current operator’s parent company, Ripley Entertainment, recklessly risked the lives of its passengers for purely financial reasons and repeatedly chose to value profits over the safety of their passengers.
Ripley has declined to comment for Missourinet and advises the public to visit its website where it states that it’s offering to pay for the expenses of the families of victims. The Branson Duck Boat attraction has been closed since the tragedy occurred.
During the news conference in Indianapolis, Lisa Berry, who’s handling the estate of Belinda Coleman in the lawsuit, said operators must face consequences for their actions. “We just want them to be held accountable for the lack of responsibility that they’ve shown,” said Berry, who also remembered her deceased relatives. “The extension of who they are is represented here today.”
Two of the 11 family members aboard the sinking Duck Boat survived the tragedy, Tia Coleman, and her 13-year old nephew. Tia lost her husband and three children in the mishap.
Attorney Robert Mongeluzzi, a member of the legal team representing the Coleman relatives said the family wants a ban on Duck Boats, but still supports new legislation introduced Tuesday by Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill.
McCaskill’s bill would enforce recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board following a 1999 sinking of a Duck Boat in Arkansas that killed 13 of 17 aboard. Among other things, it calls on the Coast Guard to formulate regulations requiring that Duck Boats have adequate buoyancy to stay afloat when they become flooded.
The Springfield News-Leader reports the Coast Guard is conducting its highest-level investigation into the Table Rock Lake incident which will focus on safety issues.
WTTV-TV reported that 53 relatives attended the Tuesday news conference in Indianapolis.
The family members’ lawsuits accuse the operators of ignoring repeated warnings that their Duck Boats are death traps for passengers and pose grave danger to the public on water and on land.
Missourinet media partner KOLR-TV contributed to this report
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