Missouri attorney general alleges in lawsuit duck boat company put profits over safety

A duck boat is seen sinking during rough weather in Table Rock Lake in the Branson area of Missouri in a screen capture from video on July 19, 2018. Jennie Phillips

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Attorney General Josh Hawley is suing the owners and operators of a tourist boat that sank in Missouri, killing 17 people, including nine members of one family. Hawley filed the lawsuit Friday. He alleges that the owners and operators of the Ride the Ducks tours put profits above people's safety. 

His office is suing under the state's consumer-protection law.

The accident occurred July 19 at Table Rock Lake near Branson. The amphibious duck boat sank amid strong winds, killing 16 passengers and a crew member. 

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A spokeswoman for Ripley Entertainment, which owns Ride the Ducks, did not immediately comment Friday. 

$100 million lawsuit on behalf of two family members was filed last month.   

Tia Coleman, whose three children, husband, sister-in-law, mother-in-law, father-in-law, an uncle and her nephew all died in the sinking, said that the captain told them "don't worry about grabbing the life jackets – you won't need them," so none of the family members grabbed them.

"However in doing that, when it was time to grab them, it was too late and I believe that a lot of people could have been spared," Coleman said one the day after the sinking.

Coleman described her ordeal to CBS Springfield, Missouri, affiliate KOLR, saying she "couldn't see anybody, I couldn't hear anything."   

"Just let me die": Duck boat accident survivor speaks

"I couldn't hear screams, it felt like I was out there on my own," Coleman said. 

"I was yelling. I was screaming," she said. "And finally I said, 'Lord, just let me die, let me die. ... I can't keep drowning, I just can't keep drowning.' And then I just let go."  

Although the $100 million lawsuit was filed on behalf of two of her family members, Tia Coleman is not party to any of the lawsuits filed against the company, attorney Bob Mongeluzzi told the Indianapolis Star

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