On Thursday evening, a duck boat touring Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri was hit by a sudden storm that capsized the vessel. Of the 31 people aboard, 17 were killed and 7 were injured—2 of them critically. The boat was owned by a business called Ride the Ducks, a duck boat tour service that operates in Seattle, Philadelphia, Boston, and Branson, among other cities.
Now a duck boat attorney has stepped forward to reveal that this is not the first time Ride the Ducks has been at the center of a fatal duck boat accident.
In 2010, a duck boat filled with 35 tourists and 2 crew members stalled in the Delaware River. A barge collided with the vessel, killing 2 travelers. In 2015, a 68-year-old Philadelphia woman died when a duck boat struck her while she was crossing the street. Again in 2015, a duck boat crashed into a charter bus, killing 5 passengers and injuring dozens more. The accident was caused by a broken axle on the decades-old vehicle.
Every one of these vehicles was owned by Ride the Ducks.
"Duck boats should outright be banned"
Like we mentioned yesterday, duck boats were never designed for tourism. The amphibious vehicles were designed as troop and supply transport vehicles in WWII. The safety features of the boat have barely been updated in 70 years. Aside from that, Ride the Ducks has been criticized for leaving their vehicles poorly maintained.
On land, duck boats lack the maneuverability and clear sight lines of a car. They have massive blind spots, and unlike a car, the operator doesn't steer from the front. They're also far wider than normal vehicles.
On the water, duck boats also lack maneuverability. Their other major problem is the canopy. Duck boats sit low in the water, allowing it to sink more easily. When that happens, people in life jackets can normally just float to the top. However, the canopy keeps people from being able to escape the boat—it's more akin to being trapped in a sinking bus than a sinking boat.
Nearly 20 years ago, a tragic duck boat accident in Hot Springs, Arkansas led to the death of 13 passengers—including 3 kids. The NTSB investigation ended with a recommendation for the complete removal of duck boat canopies. Decades later, nothing has changed.
Ride the Ducks was bought in December by Ripley Entertainment, the company that owns "Ripley's Believe It or Not!" Yesterday, Suzanne Smagala from Ripley Entertainment said this was the ride's only accident in more than 40 years of operation. Whether she meant "in Branson" remains to be seen, but this is clearly not the first duck boat accident of its kind.
Our duck boat accident attorneys hope that operators and businesses nationwide realize the danger of these vehicles and alter them accordingly. Remove the canopies. It's been long enough.