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: 49575

Reported Deaths: 2739
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11812690
Lake5337247
Elkhart343257
Allen2867133
St. Joseph202569
Cass16439
Hamilton1629101
Hendricks1439100
Johnson1306118
Porter78038
Tippecanoe7439
Clark67144
Madison66864
Vanderburgh6296
LaPorte59727
Bartholomew59245
Howard58258
Kosciusko5654
Marshall5217
Noble49128
LaGrange4829
Jackson4773
Delaware46052
Boone45944
Hancock45736
Shelby43425
Floyd39144
Morgan32831
Monroe31528
Grant30226
Montgomery29720
Henry29316
Dubois2906
Clinton2882
White26810
Decatur25532
Lawrence25125
Dearborn24723
Vigo2408
Warrick23229
Harrison21722
Greene19132
Miami1892
Jennings17912
Putnam1708
DeKalb1634
Scott1628
Daviess15017
Wayne1496
Perry1409
Orange13623
Steuben1332
Franklin1278
Jasper1252
Ripley1247
Wabash1152
Carroll1122
Fayette1037
Gibson1032
Newton9910
Whitley995
Starke963
Huntington822
Randolph804
Wells791
Jefferson782
Fulton731
Jay680
Washington671
Pulaski661
Knox650
Clay644
Rush603
Owen511
Adams491
Posey490
Benton480
Spencer461
Sullivan451
Brown421
Blackford392
Fountain332
Crawford320
Tipton311
Switzerland280
Parke240
Martin220
Ohio210
Vermillion170
Warren151
Union130
Pike110
Unassigned0193

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 61331

Reported Deaths: 3006
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin11122439
Cuyahoga8518383
Hamilton6396206
Lucas2859304
Marion273739
Montgomery228335
Summit2269209
Pickaway220641
Mahoning1885239
Butler172147
Columbiana132460
Stark1171114
Lorain107368
Trumbull101474
Warren91825
Clark78410
Delaware64515
Fairfield61417
Tuscarawas59010
Belmont55822
Lake55122
Medina54832
Licking53612
Miami48631
Portage47759
Wood46151
Ashtabula43844
Clermont4367
Geauga41543
Wayne36752
Richland3595
Allen33841
Greene3009
Mercer29410
Erie26022
Darke25326
Holmes2524
Huron2342
Madison2069
Ottawa16124
Sandusky14215
Washington14220
Crawford1375
Ross1363
Putnam13315
Coshocton1323
Hardin12312
Morrow1201
Auglaize1094
Jefferson952
Muskingum921
Union921
Athens911
Monroe8917
Hancock841
Preble811
Hocking798
Lawrence790
Guernsey763
Shelby724
Williams722
Clinton700
Logan661
Fulton650
Ashland621
Wyandot615
Carroll603
Brown591
Scioto560
Defiance543
Knox531
Fayette510
Highland471
Champaign461
Van Wert430
Perry401
Seneca362
Henry320
Jackson270
Paulding270
Pike270
Adams241
Vinton222
Gallia201
Noble130
Harrison121
Meigs120
Morgan110
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 70°
Angola
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 68°
Huntington
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 69°
Decatur
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 70°
Van Wert
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 70°
Breezy, Sunny Saturday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events