Fourth lawsuit filed in Branson duck boat tragedy

Victim's daughter sues boat operators

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - The daughter of a man killed in the duck boat sinking last month on Table Rock Lake has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court.

Jennifer Asher, daughter of William Asher of St. Louis, filed the suit Monday against Ripley Entertainment Inc., a Florida company that owns the Ride the Ducks attraction in Branson, Missouri. Asher in her lawsuit alleges the company showed a "conscious and flagrant disregard for the life and safety of its passengers," ignored safety standards, failed to train its employees in proper safety procedures and did not warn its passengers of the dangers of riding in a duck boat.

Asher in her suit is asking for compensatory damages of more than $75,000 and punitive damages, along with court costs and attorney fees.

The boats are converted World War II-era amphibious vehicles used to take tourists through city streets and onto bodies of water. The boat that sank was a modified design known as a "stretch duck," according to the lawsuit.

The July 19 sinking killed 17 people when a duck boat went onto the lake despite high winds and capsized. Critics have pointed out design flaws in the boats that make them more likely to sink than other boats and say the boats' canopies can trap passengers on board when they sink.

This is the fourth lawsuit filed against the operators of the Branson duck boats after the fatal sinking. Survivors of nine family members who died in the tragedy filed two separate suits last month and a man who helped rescue duck boat victims sued last week, alleging the experience gave him post-traumatic stress disorder. 

The incident has also been referred to federal prosecutors for possible criminal investigation. Don Ledford, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri, said Tuesday that the U.S. Coast Guard referred the case to his office, but declined to say more. A Coast Guard spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.

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