The nation was shocked when a duck boat sank in Branson, Missouri, in July 2018. The accident took 17 lives and injured seven other people. The duck was operating with 31 people aboard during a tour of Table Rock Lake when a sudden and severe storm brought with it winds reaching 65 miles per hour. The winds caused the boat to capsize. The boat was owned and operated by Ride the Ducks, a company that operated duck boat tours nationwide. The branch of Ride the Ducks that operated Branson tours was owned by Ripley Entertainment.
The tragedy compounded when news emerged that one woman lost nine family members in the accident. Duck boats are inherently dangerous, and the operators of Ride the Ducks knew this. An inspector warned Ride the Ducks of design flaws that could cause the duck boat to fail a year before the accident. However, this tragedy is only the most recent and deadly in a long line of duck boat accidents.
What are Duck Boats?
A duck boat is an amphibious tour bus used to show tourists around a city via waterways and roadways. It is not considered a ferry.
Recently, many accidents have occurred in and around duck boats while they are being operated on land and in the water. These types of tour boat accidents have resulted in serious injuries and deaths.
What is the History of Duck Boats?
Duck boats are used today as tourist attractions, but they were originally designed for use during World War II. Duck boats were originally known as DUKW boats, and duck boats were designed to deliver troops and supplies from the water to the shore as quickly as possible during an invasion. General Motors Company originally manufactured duck boats.
Early DUKW’s were able to carry 5,220 pounds of equipment or 25 soldiers. Duck boats made the process of unloading troops and equipment drastically more efficient, as duck boats had a land-efficient set of wheels and a propeller in the water.
However, severe weather revealed the DUKW’s design flaws. D-Day on Omaha Beach had uncharacteristically rough waters. Only one duck boat loaded with ammunition, weapons, and soldiers made it to the beach. The rest of the duck boats sank, tanking soldiers and supplies. The unexpected conditions on D-Day proved that duck boats could be dangerous in severe weather.
The United States produced nearly 20,000 duck boats during World War II. Duck boats used today in tours are usually refurbished retired military vehicles or replicas based on a similar design. While duck boats were effective during the war effort, they were likely not created with civilian use in mind.
What Type of Injuries are Sustained in Duck Boat Accidents?
Duck boat accidents can occur in several ways. The resulting injuries may depend on whether the accident happened while the vehicle was on land or in the water. For example, boating accident injuries that can happen while the bus is in the water include:
- Lacerations to legs and arms
- Neck and spinal injuries
- Muscle and tissue damage
- Loss of limbs
If the accident happens on land, a passenger may sustain:
- Head injuries
- Broken bones
- Lower back injuries
Also, injuries can depend on several other factors, including the speed of the boat, the weight of the boat, and the number of passengers loaded onto the boat during the time of the accident.
What is the Timeline on Duck Boat Accidents?
The Branson, Missouri tragedy looks increasingly avoidable when the public is made aware of the danger of duck boats. Here is a timeline of recent duck boat accidents:
- 1999: A deadly accident on May 1 in Hot Springs, Arkansas, when 13 died during a tour of Lake Hamilton. A loose rubber fitting caused the boat to take in water and sink. This was the deadliest civilian duck boat accident until the July 2018 Branson tragedy.
- 2002: A duck boat sank in Ontario, Canada, on the Ottawa River. Four people were trapped in the boat and drowned.
- 2010: A tugboat on the Delaware River in Philadelphia collided with a duck boat. Two students on vacation from Hungary were killed. Ride the Ducks owned the vehicle and paid an undisclosed settlement to the victims’ families. The duck boat and the tugboat’s pilots did not see each other.
- 2013: A duck boat sank in Liverpool, England. Luckily, all 33 people on board escaped. A government investigation into the accident noted the dangerous nature of duck boats.
- 2013: On May 5, 2013, a duck boat caught fire in San Francisco Bay. All 14 passengers were rescued.
- 2015: On May 8, 2015, a Philadelphia duck boat owned by Ride the Ducks struck a woman and killed her. The duck boat driver did not face any charges, and Ride the Ducks subsequently ceased all operations in Philadelphia the following year.
- 2016: A duck boat struck and killed a woman in Boston on April 30. The incident triggered a series of reforms focused on duck boat safety.
- 2018: The Branson, Missouri accident claimed the lives of 17 people and injured seven others. Multiple lawsuits were filed against Ride the Ducks as a result.
When they were made, duck boats provided invaluable services to people that needed them. However, duck boats were still prone to dangerous failures in rough waters. Over the last 20 years, repeated incidents have identified duck boats as potentially dangerous land vehicles and deadly boats.
Can I Sue If I Am Injured on a Duck Boat?
Duck boat companies are considered common carriers. They offer services to the public in exchange for payment. As a common carrier, the duck boat company has a duty to:
- Provide boats that are reasonably safe and also fit for the purpose intended;
- Exercise all precautions for passenger safety;
- Comply with safety rules;
- Provide drivers who have reasonable driving skills;
- Warn passengers of any potential dangers; and
- Various other requirements, depending on state or local laws.
What Must I Prove in a Lawsuit Against a Duck Boat Company?
Depending on the nature of the accident, a plaintiff must usually prove that the duck boat operator negligently caused the accident. Negligence involves the failure to use the common carrier’s level of care in similar or the same circumstances. To prove negligence, a plaintiff must show:
- The duck boat company had a duty to the plaintiff to not allow the injuries to occur;
- The duck boat company breached the duty of care;
- The duck boat company was the cause of the accident; and
- The plaintiff suffered injuries because of the duck boat company’s negligence.
Lastly, the plaintiff must suffer damages that can be calculated and are measurable. For instance, this can often be calculated through hospital bills and other costs.
Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer for a Duck Boat Accident?
If you were injured by a duck boat, it is in your best interest to speak with a personal injury lawyer about the accident. An attorney in your area can file a lawsuit on your behalf and provide you with representation and guidance during the legal process.
LegalMatch’s services are completely confidential. There is never a fee to schedule a consultation. Search through our personal injury lawyer database to find an experienced lawyer in your area.