By: Akia Espinoza, Senior Articles Editor, J.D. Candidate, May 2019, St. Thomas University School of Law.

A $100 million wrongful death suit has recently been filed because of the deaths of seventeen passengers on a duck boat tour. On July 19, a severe thunderstorm rolled through Branson, Missouri, causing passengers in a duck boat tour to become entrapped under the canopy of the vessel they were just enjoying a tour from, and dragged to the bottom of the lake to their deaths. The lawsuit alleges that despite a severe thunderstorm warning that was issued, that the duck boat tour went on as scheduled, and that during the safety briefing by the Captain, that passengers were even told that they would not need their life jackets.

The incident comes after thirteen passengers had died the same way from a duck boat tour in 1999. Though the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has no power to regulate these duck boat tours, after the 1999 incident, the Board issued a report in which it had recommended the removal of canopies from the boats, and that passengers wear life jackets on board. In addition, the NTSB urged companies to reserve buoyancy through watertight compartmentalization or a built-in flotation to keep the boat afloat and upright in the event of flooding.

The death of the seventeen passengers comes after the lawsuit states that the owner of the Ride the Ducks duck boat tour was personally notified by the chairman of the NTSB that the reserved buoyancy recommendation was placed because the Board believed “immediate action was necessary to avoid additional loss of life” and that the tour boat owner ignored the warnings. For now, the family members involved in the lawsuit of the deaths of their loved ones await for answers as the NTSB investigation is still ongoing. However, it should be noted that in a released preliminary report, the NTSB emphasizes it had “identified vehicle maintenance, Coast Guard inspections, reserve buoyancy, and survivability as safety issues, and issued Safety Recommendations” to the duck boat tour companies.