St. Louis Record

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Sisters of duck boat accident victim file negligence suit over sibling's death


By Daniel Beauregard | Aug 3, 2018

General court 07

SPRINGFIELD – Two Indiana women recently filed suit against Ripley Entertainment Co. and its subsidiaries for their role in a tragic boating incident in Branson, Missouri, which claimed the lives of 17 people.

Plaintiffs Lisa Berry and Marlo Rose Wells filed the complaint July 31 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Southern Division,on behalf of their sister, Belinda “Toni” Coleman, who died in the July 19 incident in which a duck boat sank to the bottom of Table Rock Lake, killing 17 passengers and injuring 14 others.  

The complaint, which asks for a trial by jury, states that Ripley and its subsidiary Ride the Ducks consistently chose to value profits over the safety of their passengers and the tragic incident could have been avoided. 

Duck boat manufacturing company Amphibious Vehicle Manufacturing and local operators Herschend Family Entertainment Corp. are also named in the complaint.

The suit outlines a series of events responsible for the tragic incident, including ignoring impending severe weather conditions and repeated warnings of duck boat design flaws.

“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 states. 

According to the complaint, dozens of deaths have occurred in similar duck boat accidents. An attachment filed with the suit details five incidents resulting in the deaths of 26 passengers prior to the Branson tragedy.

In addition to negligence, the complaint also holds defendants responsible for Coleman’s death, accusing them of forcing her to undergo unnecessary emotional distress while watching her husband, two children and several grandchildren drown before she did so herself.

The complaint, which also cites the defendants' outrageous conduct in ignoring numerous safety warnings, seeks unspecified punitive and compensatory damages.

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