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Authorities confirmed 17 people, including at least one child, are dead after an amphibious duck boat capsized on the evening of July 19.

The Ride the Ducks tourist boat sank in the midst of a thunderstorm with a reported 31 people on board. The boat sank near the Showboat Branson Belle.  

Since the time of the crash, the reported number of deaths has continuously increased. On early Friday morning, the Missouri State Highway Patrol found the last four unaccounted bodies. Among the passengers was an 11-member family, nine of whom died in the capsizing. Victims ranged in age from 1 to 70.

The captain of the boat, who has 16 years of experience survived, but the boat’s driver did not.

Three children and four adults are being treated at Cox Branson Hospital. Two survivors are in the critical care unit and one is in fair condition. A spokeswoman for the hospital said that injuries ranged from ear pain, shock, shoulder pain and near drowning.

During a July 20 press conference, Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader said it was too early to know what caused the incident. In addition, he said that there were life jackets in the boat, however, it is unclear how the safety equipment was used.

The Coast Guard is currently investigating the cause of the boat’s sinking. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers confirmed the duck boat is resting on the bottom in 50 to 80 feet of water. Crews will tow the boat ashore.

Land-to-water boats are a major tourist attraction for sightseers around the US. However, the amphibious vehicles have at least a 20-year history of deadly accidents. Since 1999, duck boats have been at the center of dozens of fatal accidents. More than 40 people have died in incidents involving duck boats in the US and Canada.

What are the Design Flaws of a Duck Boat?

While life vests are often available on board, victims often die in duck boat sinkings because they become trapped in the vessel. There are no escape hatches on duck boats and when the boat sinks quickly, the canopy prevents escape. The canopy entraps duck boat occupants and drags them down during the sinking. In addition, these vehicles are difficult to regulate on a national level because cities and states have varying degrees of safety requirements.

Ducks boats have another design flaw that puts the driver about 10 to 12 feet behind the bow. This makes it difficult to see what is directly in front of a driver and can lead to collisions with boats and other objects on the waterways.

Generally, in perfect weather conditions, there are rarely any problems with the vehicles. However, in rough waters and storms, duck boats’ safety margins erode.

The sinking of a duck boat in Lake Hamilton in Arkansas killed 13 people on May 1, 1999. This is the earliest recording of deaths involving a duck boat. Advocates continue to push for duck boat safety improvements to no avail.

The Carlson Law Firm Can Help

Jim Pattison Jr. president of Ripley Entertainment, the owner of the duck boat that capsized on Table Rock Lake on the evening of July 19, admits that the boat shouldn’t have been in the water. Our firm understands that the lives of those lost cannot be restored, however, The Carlson Law Firm can help victims and their families hold the responsible parties accountable. 

Legal claims involving water accidents can involve complex legal and technical issues. An experienced boat accident injury attorney knows the particulars of maritime law, which comes with its own rules about filing claims and submitting pleadings to the court. The liability rules also differ in some ways from those that govern car owners or tour bus operators.

If you or a family member have been injured in a boat accident and would like to discuss your legal options with an experienced Texas boating accident attorney, contact The Carlson Law Firm today for a free consultation. We have a team available to take your call 24/7.

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