Ride The Ducks Boat Battling Waves & Wind

It's been nearly a year since the duck boat disaster that killed 17 people on Table Rock Lake and resulted in a flood of lawsuits against the business operating the attraction. A recent court filing shows the owner of Ride the Ducks in Branson has reached a number of settlements with victims and their families.

The filing notes that Ripley Entertainment, the owner of Ride the Ducks, has settled with 19 parties who brought claims against the company in connection with the July 19, 2018, sinking of a duck boat on the southwest Missouri lake.

Ripley Entertainment did not discuss details of the settlements.

“The report that was filed with the court demonstrates Branson Ride The Ducks’ continuing commitment to work with the victims and families who were affected by the unprecedented storm and resulting accident that occurred last July,” said Suzanne Smagala-Potts, Ripley Entertainment spokeswoman, in an email. “While we know lives lost cannot be replaced, the report outlines that we have reached settlements with many of the families, and continue to work with others.”

Among those reaching a settlement was Tia Coleman, an Indianapolis woman who survived the duck boat sinking but lost nine other family members in the tragedy.

Attorneys for Coleman could not be reached.

Two of the settlements were previously reported.

Ripley is negotiating with six other claimants and has another set for mediation on July 15. There’s another seven claims that have not been scheduled for mediation, according to the filing.

In all, 33 claims were made against the company.

The settlements came as Ripley Entertainment was trying to convince a federal judge that a 1851 maritime law applied to the company in the Table Rock Lake incident that would reduce the amount of damages that a plaintiff could recover to the value of the vessel. In the Table Rock Lake case, that would have been $0.

Even so, Ripley sought to reach settlements with the plaintiffs.

Several lawsuits were filed against Ripley Entertainment after the duck boat, a World War II-era vehicle that travels on land and water, went out on Table Rock Lake the evening of July 19 with 31 people on board for a sightseeing tour as a major storm descended on the area.

Duck boats have been criticized by the National Transportation Safety Board for lacking features that could improve safety, but no rules or laws have been passed to enforce the recommendations.

In addition to the litigation, the captain of the duck boat and two employees face multiple criminal charges from an indictment that claims they were negligent in starting a tour as a strong storm was approaching and valued profit over safety. Each has pleaded not guilty in that case.

The Star’s Eric Adler contributed to this report.


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