USCG Convenes Board of Investigation for Duck Boat Sinking
The U.S. Coast Guard has launched a Marine Board of Investigation (MBI) proceeding for the sinking of the Ride the Ducks boat in Branson, Missouri on July 19. An MBI is the service's highest level of investigation, and it was last employed for the sinking of the conro El Faro and the disappearance of the F/V Destination.
The five-member board will gather facts and testimony about the sinking, and it will look for any evidence of any legal violations, misconduct, negligence. It will also examine the performance of government regulators, including the Coast Guard, in order to determine whether they may have had opportunities to prevent the accident.
On the evening of July 19, two "Ride the Ducks" amphibious tour boats departed the dock at Branson for an outing on Table Rock Lake. At approximately 1815 hours, a line of severe thunderstorms blew through the area, bringing winds of up to 65 mph and waves of up to four feet. The two duck boats made for shore; one made it to safety, but the other capsized and sank. Of the 31 people on board, 14 survived, including several who were injured. Victims' lawyers contend that the operator and the boat manufacturer were aware of alleged safety hazards posed by the vessel's canopy, its reserve buoyancy and the arrangement of its exhaust system, which (they allege) may have been contributing factors in the casualty.
Capt. Wayne Arguin, the commander of Coast Guard Sector New Orleans, is expected to be named board chairman for the Stretch Duck 07 MBI. Capt. Arguin served as the Staff Director for Admiral Thad Allen (USCG), the National Incident Commander for the Coast Guard’s response to the Deepwater Horizon casualty in 2010.
Second federal suit
Nine of the 17 victims of the duck boat accident were members of one family. Irvin Coleman, his brother Horace, his sister-in-law Belinda, his children Glenn and Angela, and his grandchildren Reece, Evan, Arya and Maxwell did not survive the sinking. The estates of two of the deceased Coleman family members filed suit against operator Ripley Entertainment and boat builder Ride the Ducks International on Sunday, alleging wrongful death, negligence and "outrageous conduct" and seeking $100 million in damages.
On Wednesday, two more estates - those of Belinda and Angela Coleman - filed suit. In a news conference announcing the lawsuit, nearly 50 members of the extended Coleman family gathered in Indianapolis to describe their loss.
"I tell the duck boat industry this: 'Watch this. Look at their faces. Remember their names and understand the incredible loss,'" said Bob Mongeluzzi, a lawyer who is representing the family in both lawsuits. He added that he expects additional litigation to follow. Mongeluzzi has experience with Ride the Ducks suits: he successfully negotiated a $17 million settlement for victims after the 2010 duck boat collision in Philadelphia.