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Indiana family files second lawsuit in boat sinking

July 31, 2018

Members of an Indiana family who lost nine relatives when a tourist boat sank in Missouri filed a second lawsuit Tuesday, alleging the duck boat's owners and operators ignored design problems and warnings, and put profits over people's safety.

The federal lawsuit was filed in Missouri ahead of a news conference the Coleman family planned in Indianapolis to discuss their lives since the tragedy broke "our family tree."

Seventeen people were killed when the boat capsized and sank during a storm on July 19 on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri. Nine of the dead were members of the Coleman family. The latest lawsuit was filed on behalf of the estates of two of those family members: Angela Coleman, 45, and Belinda Coleman, 68.

Indianapolis resident Tia Coleman and her 13-year-old nephew were the only two survivors among 11 Coleman family members who boarded the boat before it sank in the sudden storm. Tia Coleman lost her husband and three children in the sinking.

The suit, which seeks unspecified damages, echoes arguments made in a lawsuit filed Sunday seeking $100 million on behalf of the estates of 76-year-old Ervin Coleman and 2-year-old Maxwell Ly. Both lawsuits allege the owners and operators of the Ride the Ducks boat put profits over people's safety when they decided to put the boat on a lake despite severe weather warnings and design problems.

"Prior to this catastrophe, the Duck Boat industry knew that their Duck Boats were entirely unfit to be used for any purpose and had previously been responsible for dozens of deaths," the latest lawsuit argues.

The other people killed  were from Arkansas, Illinois and Missouri.

The lawsuits were filed against Ripley Entertainment Inc., Ride the Ducks International, Ride the Ducks of Branson, the Herschend Family Entertainment Corp., and Amphibious Vehicle Manufacturing.

A Ripley spokeswoman said in a statement Monday that the company remains "deeply saddened" by the accident. She said the company would not comment further because a National Transportation Safety Board investigation is ongoing and no conclusions have been reached.

Also on Tuesday, Missouri U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill introduced legislation to require that duck boats be better equipped to stay afloat or that canopies are removed to allow passengers to escape. McCaskill's legislation would enshrine recommendations made by federal regulators after another duck boat sank in Arkansas in 1999, killing 13 people.

"Nearly 20 years ago following a similar incident, recommendations were made to help prevent tragedies like we experienced in Branson but they were largely ignored," the Democrat said in a statement. "It'll take some time before we know exactly what went wrong in Branson, but there's absolutely no reason to wait to take this commonsense step."

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