An Indiana family who lost nine family members in the tragic duck boat sinking on July 19 in Branson, Missouri have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Ripley Entertainment Inc.
The lawsuit claims that the duck boat operators went out to water that day, despite warnings of severe thunderstorms ahead.
“It is clear that they knew severe weather was coming and they tried to beat the storm by going on water first rather than refunding the 40 bucks that each of these people paid putting their lives at risk,” attorney Robert Mongeluzzi said. “This was not in any way a storm that came out of nowhere.”
Mongeluzzi added that the family wants to know what happened and ensure that no one else dies again in a duck boat.
In addition to Ripley Entertainment Inc., the lawsuit accuses Ride the Ducks International, Ride the Ducks of Branson, the Herschend Family Entertainment Corp., and Amphibious Vehicle Manufacturing, of knowing that design flaws put the boats at risk of sinking and trapping people inside. It also claims that the defendants were told numerous times to change the design of their boats, but they ignored the warnings.
Seventeen people lost their lives when the boat capsized during a storm that tragic day. Nine of the deceased were members of the Coleman family.
Tia Coleman, who lost her husband, three kids and five other family members during the sinking, said she believes her children would have lived if she grabbed the life preservers. The operators told the passengers that they wouldn’t need their life jackets that day.
“The biggest thing that stood out to me is, no matter what, I felt like if I was able to get a life jacket I could’ve saved my babies,” Coleman said. “Because they could’ve at least floated up to the top, and somebody could have grabbed them. And I wasn’t able to do that.”
The Coleman family is seeking $100 million in damages from the lawsuit.
Ripley Entertainment said that the company is “deeply saddened by the tragic accident that occurred in Branson and we are supportive of the affected families.”