Lawyer calls for duck boats to be BANNED after 17 drown in Missouri

‘Duck boats are death traps on both on water and on land’: Lawyer calls for sightseeing vessels to be BANNED after 17 passengers drown during severe storm in Missouri

  • Since 1999, at least 42 people have died in fatal incidents on both land in water
  • Most recent crash before Ride the Ducks disaster in Missouri was in Seattle, 2015
  • In 1999, 13 people were killed after the duck boat Miss Majestic sank in Arkansas 
  • Lawyer who works on similar cases wants them to be made illegal for safety
  • He says the amphibious vessels are a death trap ‘on both water and on land’ 
  • 17 people died on Thursday after their duck boat capsized in a severe storm 

Philadelphia lawyer Andrew Duffy (pictured) has called for duck boats to be made illegal, labelling them ‘death traps on both water and land’

Officials have been warning tourists and operators of the dangers associated with duck boats for nearly two decades.

A report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board after 13 people were killed when their duck boat, the Miss Majestic, sank in Arkansas in 1999, called for the removal of canopies, and the mandatory use of life jackets.

When 17 people died in Branson on Thursday night, drowning in Table Rock Lake when their duck boat capsized in a severe storm, the canopy was on, and passengers claim they had been told life jackets were not necessary.

Now Andrew Duffy, a Philadelphia lawyer whose firm has represented families in accidents involving duck boats, is calling for the amphibious vehicles to be banned altogether. 

‘Duck boats are death traps on both on water and on land,’ he told USA Today.

‘They should be completely outlawed.’ 

The NTSB’s recommendations only work when they are implemented together though. With canopies still attached, wearing a life jacket could have been a fatal mistake for some of Thursday’s victims. 


Shocking video shows the boat being lashed by strong, massive waves for about five minutes before it became entirely submerged. It was filmed by a passenger on another boat nearby which was more sturdy. Its crew tried to save the duck boat passengers but couldn’t 

When the duck boats sink, life jackets can push passengers up to the canopy on the roof, preventing them from swimming out of the vehicle.  

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill now wants to take legally binding action to prevent future tragedies. 

The Democratic senator says she’ll examine ‘legislative solutions’ to increase the safety of amphibious vehicles like duck boats after the tragedy in Branson.

McCaskill didn’t offer specifics after she was briefed Friday evening by officials from the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board. Both agencies are investigating Thursday evening’s accident.

The state’s other senator, Republican Roy Blunt, also was being briefed by the agencies. He said he will monitor the investigation closely and called it ‘a tragedy that never should have happened’. 

But Thursday’s tragedy is one of many duck boat accidents that have left passengers and other people dead.

Five college students were killed when an amphibious vehicle – owned and operated by Ride the Ducks – collided with a motor coach in Seattle on September 24 2015

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration determined the front axle on the Seattle duck boat broke, causing the driver to lose control

There were also 69 people injured in the horrific crash on Aurora Bridge. The manufacturer agreed to pay up to $1 million after NHTSA said it violated federal laws when it failed to notify regulators of a safety defect in the axle and did not issue a full recall

Since 1999, at least 42 people have died in several fatal incidents on both land and in water involving the vehicles.

The most recent crash before the Ride the Ducks disaster in Table Rock Lake was in Seattle in 2015. 

Five college students were killed when an amphibious vehicle – owned and operated by Ride the Ducks – collided with a motor coach on September 24.

There were also 69 people injured in the horrific crash on Aurora Bridge.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration determined the front axle on the Seattle duck boat broke, causing the driver to lose control. 

The manufacturer agreed to pay up to $1 million after NHTSA said it violated federal laws when it failed to notify regulators of a safety defect in the axle and did not issue a full recall. 

In 1999, 13 people were killed after duck boat Miss Majestic sank in Lake Hamilton, Arkansas, near Hot Springs. 

Safety have advocates sought improvements to the amphibious vehicles since the Arkansas incident, but none were implemented.

Three years later, in June 2002, there was another fatal incident involving a duck boat.

In April 2015, a duck boat killed Allison Warmuth, 28, in Boston after it collided with her motor scooter. Pictured: The scene after the crash  

Four people died – including a mother and two children – when the Lady Duck capsized and sank in the Ottawa River near Parliament Hill in the Canadian capital. 

In July 2010, two Hungarian students died when a duck boat was struck by a tug on the Delaware River in Philadelphia. 

The operator of the Philadelphia duck boat tours suspended operations indefinitely in October, citing a 330 per cent increase in its insurance premiums. 

Attorney Robert J. Mongeluzzi, who helped the families of the victims win a $17 million payout, told The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2016: ‘If there is any question about why their insurance rates have increased, it is because they continue to kill people.


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‘This history of death goes back decades, starting with Miss Majestic in Arkansas, where 13 drowned in 1999.’

He said the vehicles are not built to a safe standard, adding: ‘They are death traps, and the insurance rates accurately capture the danger.’  

In April 2015, a duck boat killed Allison Warmuth, 28, in Boston after it collided with her motor scooter. 

‘We believe that duck boats in their current design should be banned,’ Ivan Warmuth, her father, later said.

As a result of that incident, duck boat operators were forced to separate their responsibilities as both driver and tour guide – and blind spot cameras and proximity sensors became required. 


Elizabeth Karnicki, 68, of Beaumont, Texas was struck and killed by a tourist duck boat in Philadelphia

The 68-year-old was walking with her husband against a traffic light when she was struck by the boat

An aerial shot shows the scene in Chinatown, downtown Philadelphia, after the accident

Just a month later, in May 2015, a duck boat killed a woman who was crossing the street in Philadelphia.

Duck boats were originally used by the US military in World War II to transport troops and supplies over land and water, most famously during the invasion of Normandy in 1944. 

They were later modified for use as sightseeing vehicles. 

There are now about 130 duck boats operating in more than a dozen US cities, including Boston, Seattle, Miami, San Diego, Honolulu and Washington.    

Critics say the 2½-ton amphibious passenger vehicles are inherently dangerous because their design creates numerous blind spots for drivers, who sit 10 to 12 feet behind the bow, making it difficult to see directly below and in front of them.


Shocking video shows the boat in Missouri on Thursday being lashed by strong, massive waves for about five minutes before becoming submerged in the lake

Allison Warmuth’s parents have pushed the industry to adopt new safety measures. They successfully lobbied for a Massachusetts law that requires duck boats to have blind spot cameras and proximity sensors. The new law also requires a second employee – separate from the driver – to narrate the tours.

Kevan Moniri, who was on the scooter with Warmuth, recalls seeing the duck boat accelerate behind them when a light turned green, then realizing the driver did not see them. Video examined by the National Transportation Safety Board showed the driver taking his eyes off the road and turning in his seat to point out landmarks during the tour.

‘I hear again and again from Boston Duck Tours and any of these other companies that safety is their No. 1 priority, and if that’s the case, you can’t argue that the safest way to operate the vehicles is for the driver to also be giving the tour,’ Moniri said.

Ten weeks after Warmuth was killed, a New Jersey woman was struck and seriously injured by a duck boat at another Boston intersection.

42 DEAD IN DUCK BOAT ACCIDENTS SINCE 1999 

At least 42 people have died in duck boat-related incidents since the land-to-water vehicles became tourist attractions in the late 90s.

May 1, 1999 – 13 dead after a duck boat sank in Lake Hamilton in Arkansas

June 23, 2002 – Four dead after a duck boat sinks in the Ottawa River near Parliament Hill in the Canadian capital 

July 7, 2010 – Ride the Ducks boat overrun by a barge after engine fire, killing two

April 29, 2015 – Duck boat collides with motor scooter in Boston, killing a 29-year-old woman 

May 8, 2015 – Woman killed after being hit by a Ride the Ducks boat while crossing the street in Philadelphia

September 24, 2015 – Ride the Ducks boat hits bus carrying school students in Seattle, killing five

July 19, 2018 – Ride the Ducks boat capsizes in Table Rock lake, Missouri, killing 17 and making it the deadliest duck boat accident

What is Ride the Ducks?

Ride the Ducks is a national tour operator with 90 amphibious vehicles, taking passengers on a sightseeing tour both on land and in the water. 

The design of the vessel is based on the DUKW trucks used in the Second World War.

The company was purchased by Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation in 2004, and a majority interest in the company was sold to a private buyer in 2012.

In late 2017, Ripley Entertainment announced they had purchased Ride the Ducks Branson. It is believed the company only owns the Branson branch of Ride the Ducks. 

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