North Carolina residents may remember the fatal duck boat accident that took place on July 19 in Missouri. A boat conducting a “Ride the Ducks” tour sank into Table Rock Lake after taking in too much water during a storm. The 31 passengers went under, and 17 drowned. On July 29, attorneys representing the families of the deceased filed a wrongful death suit against Ripley Entertainment, the company that runs the tours.
The families accuse Ripley Entertainment of outrageous conduct and negligence, contending that it ignored storm warnings as well as warnings about the safety issues posed by duck boat canopies. The National Transportation Safety Board said back in 2002 that these canopies can trap the passengers and make emergency escapes very difficult.
In August of 2017, a mechanical inspector pointed out that Ripley Entertainment’s duck boats had their exhaust in the front, which is against DoT standards. In a storm, water could go into the exhaust and possibly cause the engine to fail. Ripley Entertainment did not heed these warnings.
The suit also asserts that Ripley Entertainment broke its own protocol. The storm warning mentioned 60-mile-per-hour winds and 4-feet-high waves. However, protocol states that duck boat operators should forgo water entry when potentially faced with 35-mile-per-hour winds and 2.5-feet-high waves. Protocol also called for the captain to tell passengers to wear their lifejackets, but this did not happen.
In the event of a fatal accident like this one, families or other eligible dependents can be eligible for compensation. The process of filing a suit is complicated, so it’s often essential to hire a lawyer. Legal counsel could have third-party experts bring together the proof that the other side was negligent, and he or she could handle negotiations. Wrongful death benefits could cover funeral and burial expenses, loss of consortium and any pre-death medical bills.