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Boat Drownings in Branson, Missouri Emphasize the Need for Life Jackets

Marion Charatan

Posted on July 21, 2018 18:07

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The horrifying drownings on Table Rock Lake remind us we must wear life jackets on the water. 17 people died and 14 survived in the Ride the Ducks accident on Thursday, July 19. Perhaps there might have been 31 survivors if all the passengers were wearing life vests.

It’s hard for me to wrap my head around a statement made by a survivor of the horrible incident on a Ride the Ducks boat last Thursday (July 19, 2018) where 17 people drowned in Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri. The 14 other passengers on board were injured. The boat had come up against a fast-forming thunderstorm that wreaked havoc on the water in the tourist area.

Tia Coleman, who lost 9 members of her family, including her husband and 3 children, stated Captain Bob Williams (among the deceased) told them they didn’t need to wear life jackets. I am shocked. My heart goes out to Mrs. Coleman.

From way back when, I have done radio stories on boating safety, talking with experts from the Coast Guard and University of WA Harborview Injury Prevention Center who continually stress that everyone should always wear a well-fitting life jacket on a boat.  Children are at particularly high risk of drowning.

My Dad was an absolutely wonderful swimmer; loved the water and swam every day in Florida. But one thing he always emphasized was you have to wear a life jacket out on a boat and to never swim alone in an isolated area — ever.  

The boat accident in Missouri was an extreme case where a severe storm hit a boatful of people. Life jackets were available. By all accounts I have read, Robert “Bob" Williams was a decent man. He apparently had a calling to help others. Bob and his wife had planned to set up a center to serve veterans and the homeless. But a lapse in judgment had a terrible outcome.

What happened to the Captain in those fatal moments before conditions on the boat became life-threatening? Why did he not insist that every person on the Duck Ride wear a life jacket? We will never know the answer to that question.

For the survivors and those who lost family members, there undoubtedly will be numerous negligence lawsuits filed against Ripley Entertainment, which owns Ride the Ducks in Branson and probably the estate of Bob Williams; among others.

Karen Abbott lost both her brother and sister-in-law in the disaster. I found it disturbing that she said she reached out to Riley Entertainment but they did not return her calls.

This tragedy brought to mind an incident that occurred in Seattle in September 2015. A Ride the Ducks amphibious vehicle (that can travel on land or water) had a mechanical malfunction. It was going over the Aurora Bridge, lost control and careened into a charter bus, killing 5 North Seattle College students. City residents were shocked. It should be noted though, that the Ride the Ducks vehicles are owned and operated by separate entities.

The Branson incident really throws the spotlight on the absolute necessity for every single person on a boat to wear a life jacket at all times, period — no exceptions.

Marion Charatan

Posted on July 21, 2018 18:07

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Source: Forbes

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