STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Missouri attorney general opens criminal investigation in deadly duck boat accident

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley has opened a criminal investigation in the duck boat accident that killed 17 pe...

Posted: Aug 1, 2018 9:42 AM
Updated: Aug 1, 2018 9:42 AM

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley has opened a criminal investigation in the duck boat accident that killed 17 people on a lake near Branson.

The investigation into the July 19 capsizing and sinking of a duck boat at Table Rock Lake is being conducted under the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, according to Mary Compton, a spokeswoman for Hawley.

"We are working with investigators to determine the facts and whether any criminal charges are appropriate," she said in a statement.

Word of the investigation comes days after the filing of a wrongful death lawsuit seeking $100 million in damages from the operator of the duck boat.

When the Ride the Ducks Branson amphibious vessel started sinking, a canopy entrapped the passengers and dragged them to the bottom of the lake, attorney Robert Mongeluzzi told reporters Monday.

The passengers might have survived if the Branson operators had not ignored a 2002 National Transportation Safety Board recommendation that all duck boat canopies should be removed, he said.

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

On Tuesday, attorneys held a news conference on additional legal filings on behalf of the victims, including nine members of the Coleman family from Indianapolis.

The estates of Belinda and Angela Coleman were listed as plaintiffs in a court filing Tuesday.

"I tell the duck boat industry watch this," Mongeluzzi told reporters "Look at their faces. Remember their names and understand their incredible loss."

The lawsuit was filed Sunday in US District Court for the Western District of Missouri for the administrators of the estates of two family members who died -- Ervin Coleman, 76, and Maxwell Ly, 2.

The lawsuit alleges that Ripley Entertainment, Ride the Ducks International, Ride the Ducks Branson, Herschend Family Entertainment and Amphibious Vehicle Manufacturing knew before 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."

Suzanne Smagala, a spokeswoman for Ripley Entertainment, said in a statement: "We remain deeply saddened by the tragic accident that occurred in Branson and we are supportive of the affected families. The investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board is still underway and no conclusions have been reached. We cannot comment at this time."

There has been no comment from the other defendants.

The NTSB investigation is focused on when operators of the duck boat decided to take the vessel into the water and when they became aware of a severe thunderstorm warning, a source with knowledge of the investigation has said. Investigators are also looking at the worthiness of the boat to determine if there were any previous leaks, according to the source.

The US Coast Guard has said its investigation into the accident could result in a recommendation to open a criminal investigation. The Coast Guard said it has already conducted numerous interviews with Ride the Duck employees, survivors, eyewitnesses and emergency responders.

The Coast Guard inquiry will determine whether the actions of any person contributed to the deadly event.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the spellings of Branson, Missouri, and the last name of spokeswoman Mary Compton.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 32078

Reported Deaths: 2004
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9268539
Lake3320168
Cass15826
Allen130966
St. Joseph120534
Hendricks113067
Hamilton111592
Johnson1086104
Elkhart105728
Madison58258
Porter49021
Bartholomew48133
Clark46138
LaPorte41522
Tippecanoe3753
Jackson3671
Howard36519
Delaware35735
Hancock32127
Shelby31521
Floyd31438
Boone28835
Morgan26224
Vanderburgh2482
Montgomery23117
White2268
Decatur22431
Clinton2221
Grant19121
Noble18921
Harrison18721
Dubois1852
Greene16724
Warrick16426
Dearborn16421
Henry1619
Monroe16011
Vigo1477
Lawrence14423
Miami1391
Putnam1337
Jennings1274
Orange12422
Scott1183
Ripley1126
Franklin1068
Kosciusko941
Carroll922
Daviess8216
Steuben802
Marshall761
Newton7410
Wabash722
Wayne715
Fayette684
LaGrange602
Jasper581
Washington521
Fulton471
Rush452
Jay440
Randolph433
Jefferson411
Whitley402
Pulaski390
Clay391
Owen341
Brown331
Sullivan321
Starke313
DeKalb311
Perry260
Huntington262
Knox250
Tipton251
Benton250
Wells240
Crawford230
Blackford211
Switzerland190
Fountain182
Spencer171
Posey170
Parke170
Gibson142
Ohio130
Warren121
Adams121
Vermillion90
Martin90
Union80
Pike60
Unassigned0154
West Lafayette
Clear
67° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 67°
Kokomo
Few Clouds
69° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 69°
Rensselaer
Scattered Clouds
66° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 66°
Fowler
Scattered Clouds
66° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 66°
Williamsport
Scattered Clouds
67° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 67°
Crawfordsville
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 62°
Frankfort
Broken Clouds
68° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 68°
Delphi
Scattered Clouds
65° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 65°
Monticello
Scattered Clouds
65° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 65°
Logansport
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 64°
Some more storms ahead....
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events