Widow sues after husband and son die in duck boat incident

By Chandra Lye | Sep 22, 2018

Coast Guard oversees the removal of Stretch Duck 7 from Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri, July 23, 2018.   U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lora Ratliff

KANSAS CITY  – A jury trial has been demanded in a lawsuit stemming from a duck boat incident where 17 people were killed. 

Pamela Young Smith has sued Ripley Entertainment on behalf of herself, her daughter Loren Smith and her deceased husband and son, Steve and Lance Smith, respectively. 

The lawsuit was filed on Sept. 20 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri’s Southern Division.

The Smiths' complaint revolves around an incident on a duck boat that sank in Table Rock Lake on July 19, causing the death of 17 people, including Steve and Lance Smith. Loren Smith was injured in the incident. 

The predecessor to the duck boat was a 6-wheel drive amphibious truck designed and used by the U.S. Army in the 1940s. There were about 21,000 built and sold as surplus after WWII. They were later turned into duck boats and used by tour and entertainment companies. 

However, the court filing claims that at least 39 people have died in duck boat incidents since 1999 in the U.S. and Canada. 

In fact, following another similar incident on Lake Hamilton in Arkansas in 1999, the National Transportation Safety Board found several problems with the craft including that it lacked “adequate reserve buoyancy” and “its overhead canopy contributed to the passengers’ deaths, because ‘the natural buoyancy of the passengers’ bodies forced them into the overhead canopy’ which ‘essentially caged them, making escape in limited time available extremely difficult’,” the filing stated. 

The plaintiffs have made claims of strict liability, negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress. They are seeking financial redress of over $75,000. 

“As the Duck Boat took on water and sank, Loren was in the zone of danger and was placed in danger of, and actually suffered, physical injuries. Loren witnessed as other passengers, including her brother and her father, suffered serious injuries, many of which were fatal, as a direct result of Defendants’ conduct. In addition to her physical injuries, Loren suffered further injuries, including but not limited to, emotional distress, psychological pain and suffering, severe mental anguish, and other psychological, emotional, and mental injuries as a result of witnessing injuries other passengers suffered and the deaths of her brother and father,” the plaintiffs noted in their filing. 

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