Wrongful death lawsuit filed against ‘Ride the Ducks’ seeks $100 million

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Attorneys representing Indianapolis families whose relatives drowned at Table Rock Lake while on a "Ride the Ducks" tour filed a lawsuit Sunday against Ripley Entertainment alleging wrongful death, outrageous conduct and negligence, according to WDAF.

The lawsuit filed in federal court seeks at least $100 million in damages for the estates of Ervin Coleman and Maxwell Ly, three of the 17 victims who died in the boat sinking on July 19.

The duck boat carrying 31 people sank after taking on too much water during a storm, and the lawsuit contends that Ripley Entertainment recklessly put the lives of its passengers at risk by ignoring storm warnings and failing to take corrective safety measures.

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Tourist 'duck boat' capsizes in Missouri
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Tourist 'duck boat' capsizes in Missouri
Rescue personnel work after an amphibious "duck boat" capsized and sank, at Table Rock Lake near Branson, Stone County, Missouri, U.S. July 19, 2018 in this still image obtained from a video on social media. SOUTHERN STONE COUNTY FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT/Facebook/via REUTERS
Rescue personnel are seen after an amphibious "duck boat" capsized and sank, at Table Rock Lake near Branson, Stone County, Missouri, U.S. July 19, 2018 in this still image obtained from a video on social media. SOUTHERN STONE COUNTY FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT/Facebook/via REUTERS
A duck boat is seen at Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri, U.S., July 19, 2018 in this picture grab obtained from social media video. Ron Folsom/via REUTERS
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A family of mourners stop to place a flower on a World War II DUKW boat used by Ride The Ducks tours on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: The fleet of the World War II DUKW boats are seen at Ride the Ducks on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday.(Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A family of mourners pause for a moment of prayer at Ride The Ducks Tours on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A Ride The Ducks World War II DUKW boat is seen at Ride The Ducks on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: Vehicles of the victims of Thursday's Branson Duck Boat accident have been turned into a memorial on the parking lot for Ride The Ducks on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday.(Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: Cards and flowers are seen on the vehicle of one of the victims of the Ride The Ducks Accident at Ride The Ducks Tours on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: Cards and flowers are seen on the vehicle of a victim of the Ride The Ducks Accident at Ride The Ducks Tours on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: The fleet of the World War II DUKW boats are seen at Ride the Ducks on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday.(Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A family of mourners stop to place a flower on a World War II DUKW boat used by Ride The Ducks tours on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A vehicle of one of the Ride The Ducks accident victims is seen as it has become a memorial on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A Ride The Ducks World War II DUKW boat is seen at Ride The Ducks on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A family places flowers on vehicles of the victims of the Ride The Ducks accident on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A vehicle of one of the victims of Thursday's Branson Duck Boat accident has been turned into a memorial on the parking lot for Ride The Ducks on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A group of mourners pause for a moment of prayer at Ride The Ducks Tours on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A family of mourners pause for a moment of prayer at Ride The Ducks Tours on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A family places flowers on vehicles of the victims of the Ride The Ducks accident on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: Boaters are seen on Table Rock Lake on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Table Rock Lake was the sight of a Ride The Ducks Tours Duck Boat capsizing accident on July 19th that killed over 10 people. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A group of mourners pause for a moment of prayer and remembrance of the victims of the Ride The Ducks accident at Ride The Ducks Tours on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A Ride The Ducks World War II DUKW boat is seen at Ride The Ducks on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A group of mourners pause for a moment of prayer and remembrance of the victims of the Ride The Ducks accident at Ride The Ducks Tours on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A Ride The Ducks World War II DUKW boat is seen at Ride The Ducks on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A Ride The Ducks World War II DUKW boat is seen at Ride The Ducks on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A Ride The Ducks World War II DUKW boat is seen at Ride The Ducks on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of mourners stopped by the location to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake in a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
Mourners gather in the parking lot of the Ride the Ducks offices in Branson, Mo., during a candle light vigil on Friday, July 20, 2018 for the victims of the Branson duck boat tragedy at Table Rock Lake. (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: An overall of Table Rock Lake is seen on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Table Rock Lake was the sight of a Ride The Ducks Tours Duck Boat capsizing accident on July 19th that killed over 10 people. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
On Friday, July 20, 2018, the Branson Belle tour boat is docked on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Mo., where an amphibious vehicle capsized on Thursday, July 19, 2018, due to high winds. Seventeen people died in the mishap. People on the Branson Belle, which had not left the dock, assisted in rescuing some of the survivors. (Rich Sugg/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A young girl plays with a toy candle during a evening candlelight vigil at Life Christian Center Church on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of Branson and surrounding areas are gathering to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake during a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
Mourners gather in the parking lot of the Ride the Ducks offices in Branson, Mo., during a candle light vigil on Friday, July 20, 2018 for the victims of the Branson duck boat tragedy at Table Rock Lake. (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: Worshippers gather during a evening candlelight prayer vigil at Life Christian Center Church on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of Branson and surrounding areas are gathering to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake during a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: Worshippers gather during a evening candlelight prayer vigil at Life Christian Center Church on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of Branson and surrounding areas are gathering to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake during a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: Worshippers gather during a evening candlelight prayer vigil at Life Christian Center Church on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of Branson and surrounding areas are gathering to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake during a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
BRANSON, MO - JULY 20: A child places a candle down during a evening candlelight prayer vigil at Life Christian Center Church on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Hundreds of Branson and surrounding areas are gathering to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake during a thunderstorm on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
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The lawsuit says that Ripley ignored repeated safety warnings over two decades about the duck boats' canopies, and the danger they pose during an emergency. It cites a 2002 National Transportation Safety Board report that found the canopies "essentially caged them (the passengers), making escape in limited time available extremely difficult."

The suit also calls out unheeded warnings made by inspector Steven Paul, who told the company in August of 2017 that the duck boats' bilge pumps that remove water from the hull could fail in bad weather because they were improperly placed in the exhaust system.

A number of other duck boat deaths are mentioned in the court filing, including a 1999 incident where 13 people drowned in Hot Springs, Arkansas, a 2002 incident in Ontario, Calif., where four died, two incidents in Philadelphia where a total of three people died, a 2015 incident in Seattle where five died and a 2016 incident in Boston where one person died.

In 2000 following the Hot Springs incident, the NTSB said that immediate action was needed to provide reserve buoyancy for the duck boats, but the suit says the company ignored this recommendation.

On the day of the sinking, the lawsuit says company operators ignored a severe thunderstorm warning issued at 6:32 p.m. The captain and driver of Stretch Duck 07's were told to take the water portion of the tour before the land in an effort to beat the storm, a reversal of the original itinerary.

As passengers boarded, the captain said he had monitored the weather before the trip.

When the boat sank, the lawsuit contends it was the culmination of defective design, ignored safety and storm warnings and breaks in company protocol. It says that operators should forego water entry if there is a risk of winds greater than 35 miles per hour and waves higher than 2.5 feet.

The storm warning said winds could reach up to 60 miles per hour, and the boat encountered waves as high as 4 feet. Based on those circumstances, protocol calls for the captain to tell passengers to put on their life jackets, but that didn't happen.

During a 6:50 p.m. safety briefing the captain said passengers would not need their life jackets.

On Friday, the NTSB released an initial report following a review of video recordings, and within four minutes of being on the water, whitecaps rapidly appeared on the water and wind speeds increased around 7 p.m. The captain returned to the driver's seat, and the driver lowered plastic curtains, but court documents say as the boat sank, the curtains and canopy entrapped the passengers and crew.

At about 7:04 p.m., a bilge alarm went off. The NTSB said the captain reached down and the bilge alarm ended.

In the final minutes of the recordings, water splashed inside the area where passengers sit. At about 7:06 p.m., the bilge alarm once again went off, and a minute later, the inward-facing camera ended while the duck boat was still on the water's surface. A 911 call came in at 7:09 p.m. reporting that the duck boat sank and people were in the water.

There are nine counts in this lawsuit, including two counts of Wrongful Death, two counts of Negligence, Strict Product Liability, Outrageous Conduct (punitive damages), two counts of Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress, and Violations of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.

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