The terrible boating accident that led to the drowning deaths of 17 people has been under investigation since it occurred on July 19th in Branson, Missouri. Initial findings have implicated a sudden change in the weather on Table Rock Lake. Now the attorney general for the state is beginning criminal investigations, trying to determine if the captain or the company that owned the boat are criminally negligent. In the meantime, the families of those who died on the boat are filing lawsuits.
On July 19th, 31 people got on the duck boat in Branson. The boat was supposed to do a driving tour on land before entering the waters of Table Rock Lake for a 30-minute boating tour. The plans changed and the boat went into the lake first, around 7 pm. As the weather shifted, large waves began forming on the lake, and within ten minutes the vessel was in trouble. Soon it would capsize and sink, with only 14 people making it out alive.
Weather Played a Role
Recordings from the duck boat, as well as video from the evening of the tragedy, indicated that weather changed rapidly. The National Weather Service announced a severe thunderstorm warning for the area approximately 40 minutes before the boat went under the waves. From ongoing investigations it is clear that the captain, who survived the incident, had checked the weather report before setting out that night.
The severe weather that began that night on the lake included winds as high as 73 miles per hour, nearly comparable to a hurricane. The boat was also operating in high waves, although the lake was calm and the weather much less windy when it set out for the tour. According to the U.S. Coast Guard the duck boat that sank was not certified to be operating in waters with waves greater than two feet or in winds higher than 35 miles per hour. In other words, the boat should not have been out in that weather.
Criminal Investigation Underway
The Missouri attorney general, Josh Hawley instigated a criminal investigation in the incident under the Merchandising Practices Act. The law is most often used in civil cases related to companies misrepresenting their products or services, but criminal cases are allowed under the act. The office of the attorney general has not yet announced what charges it may bring against the duck boat company.
Families File Wrongful Death Lawsuits
This tragic maritime accident saw one family lose nine members and others lose one or more. Those families are now suing the duck boat company, seeking compensation for what they call wrongful deaths. Three women, sisters, who lost both their parents in the sinking have filed a lawsuit in the state. The remaining members of the family that lost nine members have just filed a federal lawsuit asking for $100 million in damages.
The lawyers of the families of the victims specialize in boating accident and are alleging that the boat never should have gone out because of the weather report. They are also blaming the company, Ripley Entertainment, failed to make changes to the boats after receiving a safety report in 2017 that indicated they needed upgrades.
How these cases will end remains to be seen, but the families of the victims are seeking justice. They want to hold the company and the captain accountable, and while they may be compensated, most simply want to ensure this tragedy will not happen to others in the future.