Duck Boat Tragedy in Missouri
November 8, 2018
- Kreindler partner and U.S. Navy veteran Dan Rose has been following the Stretch Duck 7 tourist boat that capsized and sank in Table
Rock Lake, Missouri, killing 17 of 31 people on board.
- This maritime case has several liability and legal issues to be assessed.
UPDATE: November 8, 2018
The U.S. attorney for the Western
District of Missouri announced criminal charges against the captain of the
Stretch Duck 7 duck boat. The captain has been charged with 17 counts of misconduct,
negligence, or inattention to duty by a ship’s officer, resulting in the death
of another, also known as “seaman’s manslaughter.”
The Stretch Duck 7, a tourist duck boat owned by Ripley Entertainment, capsized and sank in Table Rock Lake, Missouri, on July 19, 2018, killing 17 of 31 people on board.
Here are some of our initial thoughts regarding potential liability and legal issues in the case.
Failure to Monitor Developing Weather and Heed Severe Thunderstorm Warning
very similar to one of the issues from the 2015 SS El Faro sinking that took 33 lives. Kreindler was deeply involved in the El Faro case, in which the
captain and vessel owner failed to properly monitor and avoid Hurricane
Failure to Cancel the Voyage or Issue a Timely Recall
Have Sufficient Life Jackets and/or to Timely Instruct the Passengers to Don Them
Duck Boat Design is Inappropriate as a Passenger Tour Boat
It’s a WW-II
design that was originally intended to transport troops from a troop carrier
vessel to the shore, often for just one-time use. It was never intended for
repeated commercial tour boat purposes.
essentially a floating bathtub susceptible to flooding in anything but calm
water and includes a canopy that inhibits emergency egress once the boat is
flooded or capsized.
result of the canopy, the vessel has a high center of gravity that makes it
prone to capsize, particularly in wind.
This is a
similar issue as a previous Kreindler case—the 2005 sinking of the tourist
boat Ethan Allen in Lake George, NY.
In that tragedy, overloading and a high canopy created a capsize hazard in a
Table Rock Lake is considered “navigable waters” of the United States
will be an important issue in any lawsuit. Generally, where a lake like Table
Rock Lake spans two states, here Missouri and Arkansas, it is considered
navigable waters. However, in 1984, a federal court determined that Table Rock
Lake was not navigable waters. Because of the way that case was
presented to the federal court, the fact that Table Rock Lake is also in
Arkansas was never fully considered by the federal court. Therefore, whether
Table Rock Lake is legally considered “navigable waters” remains an
important issue in this case.
Rock Lake were to be deemed “navigable waters,” the vessel owner
could try to invoke an 1851 rule called the Limitation of Liability Act and
claim that its legal liability can be no more than the value of the duck boat
after the capsizing. Clearly, the value of duck boat, even in a new condition,
would be significantly less than the multi-million dollar verdicts that would
surely result. If the owner is successful in asserting the Limitation of Liability
defense, it would essentially excuse the owner from fairly compensating the
families—a tragedy heaped upon tragedy.
U.S. Navy veteran and Kreindler partner Daniel O. Rose has been following the tragedy closely. Interviewed by Missouri’s Springfield News-Leader the day following the sinking, Mr. Rose discussed overcoming the shipowner’s Limitation of Liability Act - a federal statute that can often cap damages to no more money than the salvage value of the sunken vessel.
Kreindler will continue to closely monitor the civil case of the Stretch Duck 7 duck boat sinking, while analyzing the impact of the criminal case against the captain, which was announced in November 2018.
Kreindler partners and attorneys have successfully prosecuted numerous significant maritime cases including:
- SS El Faro
Cargo Ship Disaster
Allen Tour Boat Capsizing in Lake George
- Young v.
Moran Towing - Maritime Victory
- Porter v.
Vulcan Materials - Family Wins Wrongful Death Trial
Our client remains committed to seeing that a tragedy like the one that needlessly took the life of their beloved brother never happens again.
Kreindler partner Dan Rose following the announcement that a
Kreindler client had reached a wrongful-death settlement for a confidential sum in the El Faro incident.