KANSAS CITY, Mo. A $100 million dollar federal lawsuit claims the owners and operators of Branson's Ride the Ducks attraction put profits over safety.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the estates of 76 year-old, Ervin Coleman, known as Uncle Ray and two year old Maxwell Coleman of Indiana. The Coleman family lost 9 of 11 family members in the accident.
Court documents filed by a Philadelphia law firm say that Ripley's Entertainment knew about design flaws that made the boats susceptible to sinking. The attorneys also allege that the company ignored multiple storm warnings.
"Duck boats are sinking coffins. Once they take on water they sink and sink fast," said Robert Mongeluzzi.
He and Andrew Duffy have years of experience representing people involved in duck boat accidents.
"It would be one thing, if we were all standing in this room today and learning about, for the first time, the fatal design flaws of duck boats.
It is an absolute disgrace that those fatal designs were, in a very public way, pointed out, over 16 years ago," said Duffy.
On July 19, 2018, 29 people were taking a Ride the Ducks tour around Branson. They, along with 2 crew members were tossed into the waters of Table Rock Lake when a severe thunderstorm caused the amphibious vehicle to capsize.
"The excuse, that this was an unexpected, sudden, weather emergency. No it wasn't," said Mongeluzzi.
In all, 17 people drowned.
"At 6:32 there was a firm warning issued for a severe thunderstorms, including 60 mile per hour winds, including a specific mention of Table Rock Lake," said Duffy.
The legal team says the boat operators were negligent.
Mongeluzzi said, "They tried to beat the storm by going on the water first rather than refunding the 40 bucks that each of these people paid."
They say, for the Coleman family, the lawsuit isn't about money.
"We filed this complaint to lay out these facts because this family doesn't want another family to go through the horror, despair,
heartache that they have," said Mongeluzzi.
Springfield attorney, Gregory Aleshire was also here in Kansas City, joining the legal team from Philadelphia. He and his team will be representing the estates of Butch, Toni and Angela Coleman, who also died in that accident.
The legal team expects to file more lawsuits on behalf of other people on the boat that day in the near future.