The Indiana woman who lost nine of her family members — including her husband and their three children — after the duck boat they were riding in capsized and sank in Missouri last month has now filed a lawsuit against the tour boat operators and manufacturers. The suit demands the end of the manufacturing and operation of the amphibious vehicles until they are redesigned with additional safety measures.
In fact, the lawsuit accuses Ripley Entertainment Inc., the parent company of the tour operator and the duck boat manufacturer, of being aware the vehicles were not safe and of failing to listen to recommendations to make them safer, the New York Daily News notes.
That accusation is in reference to the fact that almost two decades ago, the National Transportation Safety Board voiced concern that the vehicles had the “vulnerability of sinking” due to being prone to flooding. They encouraged operators to fix the boats with watertight bulkheads and install flotation materials in the hull.
“In 2002, the NTSB warned the duck boat industry to remove the canopies from their duck boats because they trap and drown passengers when the duck boat sinks. Instead of following their recommendations, they exposed their passengers to the very hazard they were told to correct — killing them,” said attorney Robert J. Mongeluzzi in a statement.
Now Tia Coleman is pointing the finger at Ripley Entertainment after tragically losing her family.
Ripley Entertainment has “repeatedly claimed that they are supportive of families,” Coleman said. “If they really supported families, they never would have put us into what they knew were dangerous duck boats in the face of an oncoming storm. We trusted them and they took our children, husbands, fathers, mothers grandfathers, grandmothers, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and friends.”
“I know that nothing can ever bring back my family but I hope that through the justice system — and citizen action to ban deadly duck boats — we can spare other families the kind of unimaginable pain and heartbreak I live with every day,” she added. “These boats can never be allowed to kill again.”
According to the Patch, Coleman is seeking $300 million in damages in addition to the end of the manufacturing and operation of the boats.
“This tragedy was the predictable and predicted result of decades of unacceptable, greed-driven and willful ignorance of safety by the duck boat industry,” lawyers for Coleman said in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, the Indy Star reports.
Ride the Ducks, the tour owned by Ripley Entertainment, released a statement noting that they have not operated a tour since the crash.
“Ride The Ducks Branson remains deeply saddened by the tragic accident that took place in July. An event like this profoundly touches everyone,” the statement read. “The business has not operated since the incident so we can take time to focus on our guests, employees, and families who are affected by this accident.”
However, according to the IndyStar, Ripley Entertainment declined to comment on the pending litigation.