Another lawsuit has been filed in connection to July’s ‘Ride the Ducks’ tragedy in July.
This time, writes the Kansas City Star, eight survivors from the summertime disaster are claiming they’ve been “forever scarred” by seeing 17 of their fellow passengers drown amidst rough waves and torrential waves.
The suit was filed on behalf of Ronita McKinley and daughter Tiffany Collins, both from Carlsbad, New Mexico; daughter Tomlyn McDonald, of Midland, Texas, and the trio’s respective families.
As in other suits, Ripley Entertainment, a Florida-based duck boat operator, is named as a defendant alongside Ride the Ducks International and Herschend Family Entertainment. Other operations have also been listed in the suit.
The allegations are similar to those brought by other survivors, with Ripley Entertainment accused of ignoring poor weather conditions and safety warnings. Investigations indicate that the duck boats involved in the Branson, MO incident were not outfitted with viable escape routes and emergency exits.
“Duck boats are sinking coffins,” said attorney Robert J. Mongeluzzi, who’s representing one family which lost nine members in the July disaster.
“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,” claimed Mongeluzzi in the suit.
Recent developments in the investigation show that the federal government may be considering criminal charges against the boat operators involved.
The U.S. Coast Guard, which reviewed the case and its immediate aftermath, referred the tragedy to federal investigators in late August.
“During the course of the initial part of our investigation, the fact-finding part, we identified stuff that could point to some sort of criminal activity,” said Coast Guard spokeswoman Alan Miller. “And we are not in the business of criminal investigations.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is reportedly looking into the case and considering filing criminal charges against those involved.
“I can confirm that the Coast Guard referred this matter to this U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Missouri to consider a potential criminal investigation and federal prosecution,” said spokesman Don Ledford. “We cannot provide any additional information or comment beyond that confirmation.”
A week later, the Kansas City Star identified captains of two Ride the Ducks boasts as targets of an ongoing criminal investigation. Both Kenneth Scott McKee, captain of the sunken Stretch Duck 07, and Barry King, captain of the Stretch Duck 54, “are aware of their status as targets of the Government action.”
Proceedings against King and McKee suggest the government believes they operated their boats in such a way as to endanger passengers.
The latest lawsuit, like Mongeluzzi’s, demands that the defendants “immediately cease the manufacturing and operation of all Duck Boats in the United States and abroad.”