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Bill inspired by 2018 Missouri duck boat tragedy passes U.S. House

Operators of duck boat that sank, killed 17 are citing law from the 1850s to limit their liability
Posted at 8:02 PM, Mar 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-30 20:02:47-04

WASHINGTON — An Indiana congressman's legislation inspired by a 2018 tragedy is one step closer to becoming law.

On July 19, 2018, a duck boat accident killed 17 people — including nine members of the Coleman family from Indianapolis.

Congressman Andre Carson says he was compelled to introduce the Duck Boat Safety Improvement Act in their memory. The legislation is part of the 2022 Coast Guard Reauthorization Act.

"I thank the surviving members of the Coleman family and their loved ones, particularity Tia Coleman, for their impassioned advocacy on this priority. They have turned their pain into purpose, and for that we are grateful," Carson said in a statement. "I urge the Senate to also vote in favor of the legislation, so the Duck Boat safety recommendations provided by the National Transportation Safety Board 20 years ago can finally become law. This will no doubt save countless lives.”  

The Duck Boat Safety Improvement Act will require vessel operators to implement common-sense boating safety measures when waterborne, including:  

  • Improving reserve buoyancy and watertight compartmentalization to prevent sinking,    
  • Requiring more monitoring and adherence to severe weather alerts and warnings,    
  • Requiring release of road safety seatbelts when Duck Boats become waterborne,    
  • Requiring stronger crew safety training and certification,    
  • Removing or reconfigure canopies and window coverings for waterborne operations,    
  • Requiring personal flotation devices for waterborne operations,    
  • Requiring installation of better bilge pumps and alarms,    
  • Installing underwater LED lights that activate automatically in emergencies, and    
  • Complying with other Coast Guard boating safety requirements.    

Three people facing state charges in Missouri filed a motion to dismiss in January. Online court records show the next hearing is scheduled for April 5.

Congressman Carson spoke to WRTV's Rafael Sanchez about his bill earlier this month.

Duck Boat Safety Proposal