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Judge Dismisses Criminal Charges Related to Deaths in Duck Boat Accident

January 19, 2021
Injury in the News

Federal Neglect and Misconduct Charges Were Dismissed in Tragic Duck Boat Accident

Federal charges arising from a Missouri lake duck boat accident, which killed seventeen people, were dismissed earlier this month. The tragedy occurred in 2018 after the boat entered Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri, despite severe weather conditions. A thunderstorm with hurricane-strength winds swept across the lake, causing the boat to take on water and eventually sink.

Attorneys at Mase Mebane represent injury victims of duck boat tour accidents and other boating excursion accidents in Florida. If you have been injured in a boating accident, contact our office to discuss your legal options. All consultations are free and confidential.

Duck Boat Accidents

On July 19, 2018, a duck boat carrying thirty-one people capsized and sank in one of the deadliest accidents of its kind. Authorities issued severe thunderstorm warnings for a quick-moving storm, which ultimately proved fatal. Of the seventeen people that were killed in the disaster, nine were from the same family.

This wasn’t the first horrific duck boat accident on American soil. According to the New York Times, sweeping reforms were called for after a 1999 Arkansas duck boat accident killed thirteen. An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that duck boats were prone to sinking when flooded. An immediate advisory was issued mandating duck boat operators equip vessels with additional flotation devices.

Boating Accidents Can Result in Civil and Criminal Liability

Boating excursion accidents can result in criminal and civil liability. Even if criminal charges are dismissed, an injured person or their family can pursue a civil lawsuit against any negligent parties, including a wrongful death suit. As reported by the Miami Herald, the Missouri duck boat owner settled thirty-one lawsuits related to the accident.

A United States District Judge, upholding a September recommendation from another federal judge, dismissed the criminal charges against the owners of the boat. The recommendation noted that the federal government lacked jurisdiction because “Table Rock Lake is not considered a navigable waterway, which means it doesn’t support commerce.” Thus, any criminal charges must be prosecuted by the State of Missouri, not the United States. The dismissal of federal criminal charges does not negate the civil lawsuits filed by injury victims and their families in wrongful death claims.

Lack of Adequate Oversight 

Duck boats, modeled after the amphibious trucks used during WWII to carry supplies in and out of the water, have had a checkered past. Not all accidents, however, have occurred on the water. As noted by the Times, five people were killed when a duck boat collided with a bus in Seattle. 

Other duck boat accident tragedies include:

  • In Philadelphia, two people were killed after a duck boat stalled in a river and was struck by a barge.
  • In 2015, a pedestrian was struck and killed by a duck boat in Philadelphia. 
  • In Boston, a person riding on a scooter was struck and killed by a duck boat.

Some people point to the lack of regulatory oversight as a critical problem. Multiple agencies, including the United States Coast Guard and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, have jurisdiction over the vessels.

Contact Mase Mebane for a Free Consultation

If you have been injured in a duck boat accident or other boating excursion accident, contact Mase Mebane for a free consultation. Our experienced trial attorneys can help get you the maximum compensation for your case. Call (844) 627-3529 or fill out our online contact form to get started.

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