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Lawsuit in fatal duck boat sinking seeks $100 million

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Lawsuit in fatal duck boat sinking seeks $100 million

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Darron Cummings AP
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A federal lawsuit seeking $100 million has been filed on behalf of the family of several victims of a fatal duck boat sinking in Missouri that killed 17 people.

The suit was filed Sunday on behalf of several members of an Indiana family who lost nine family members when the duck boat capsized during a thunderstorm on July 19 near Branson, Missouri. Five children were among the 17 killed, authorities have said, and another 14 were injured.

The suit alleges that despite "being aware of impending severe weather conditions" the operators of the boat risked passengers' lives by taking the boat out instead of refunding them.

"This tragedy was the predictable and predicted result of decades of unacceptable, greed-driven, and willful ignorance of safety by the Duck Boat industry in the face of specific and repeated warnings that their Duck Boats are death traps for passengers and pose grave danger to the public on water and on land," the suit said, noting that duck boats have previously caused dozens of deaths.

It also accuses Ripley Entertainment, the owners of Ride The Ducks Branson, and others of knowing that design flaws made the boats more susceptible to sinking and trapping people inside should a sinking occur.

"Prior to killing seventeen people in Branson, injuring fourteen others, and ruining the lives of countless more, Defendants had been told that design flaws in the Duck Boats made them more susceptible to sinking," the suit said.

It also accuses the defendants of being repeatedly told to change the design of their boats to make them safer but ignoring those warnings.

Members of the Coleman family comfort each other at a casket during the showing for five members of the Coleman family on July 28 in Indianapolis.
Members of the Coleman family comfort each other at a casket during the showing for five members of the Coleman family on July 28 in Indianapolis. Darron Cummings

The legal team that filed the suit has been involved in previous wrongful death cases involving duck boats.

The lawsuit also alleges that during a safety briefing, passengers were told they would not need their life jackets.

Ripley Entertainment did not immediately respond to request for comment on the lawsuit.

Tia Coleman, whose husband, three young children and five other family members died in the sinking, has said she believed her children could have been saved if she had been able to grab the life preservers.

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"The biggest thing that stood out to me is, no matter what, I felt like if I was able to get a life jacket I could've saved my babies," Coleman said. "Because they could've at least floated up to the top, and somebody could have grabbed them. And I wasn't able to do that."

Angela Coleman, 45; Belinda Coleman, 69; Ervin Coleman, 76; Glenn Coleman, 40; Horace Coleman, 70; and 1-year-old Arya Coleman; Maxwell Coleman, 2; Evan Coleman, 7; and Reece Coleman, 9, lost their lives.

Also killed in the accident were William Asher, 69; Rosemarie Hamann, 68; Janice Bright, 63; William Bright, 65; Leslie Dennison, 64; Bob Williams, 73; Steve Smith, 53; and Lance Smith, 15, according to the sheriff's office.