WASHINGTON D.C. — An Indiana congressman on Thursday introduced legislation aiming to improve duck boat safety after 17 people were killed in a duck boat mishap in July.
Nine of the 17 lives lost in the Table Rock Lake near Branson, Mo. were Hoosiers. All of which belonged to a single family — the Colemans.
“It could take months or years before we know exactly what went wrong in Branson,” U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, D-Indianapolis, said. “But there is no reason why Congress needs to hold off on implementing existing safety recommendations. We know from past incidents that more can be done to make these vessels safe. We owe it to passengers everywhere to learn from this tragedy and take action now.”
The Coleman family filed two wrongful death lawsuits this summer on behalf of family members. Tia Coleman, one of two survivors from her family, lost her husband, children and five other relatives in the duck boat. The family was asking that the owners of the amphibious vehicles stop manufacturing or operating until they are redesigned to be safe.
The lawsuits are seeking $300 million in damages.
The bill would direct the Coast Guard to issue regulations within 180 days to require operators of amphibious passenger vessels to retrofit their vessels to provide reserve buoyancy. Vessel operators would have two years to comply with the requirements.
In the meantime, the bill would direct them to implement interim measures to improve vessel safety:
- Removing canopies from vessels for waterborne operations, with structures that do not restrict escape in the event of flooding or sinking.
- Require that all passengers wear a personal floatation device while the vessel is on the water
- Require compliance with existing Coast Guard regulations related to the inspection, configuration and operation of such vessels.
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