Man Who Rescued Missouri Duck Boat Passengers Files Lawsuit

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
August 19, 2018US News

A man who rescued multiple people after a duck boat in Missouri capsized in July is suing the company that owns the vessel, Ripley Entertainment, as well as the captain.

Gregory Harris, who works on another boat in Branson, saw the duck boat sinking and jumped into the water to help people who were in danger of drowning.

“Heedless of his own safety, Greg jumped into the wind-driven surge of the lake to try and rescue anyone he could,” the lawsuit stated, reported WDAF.

Harris ultimately reached five people, saving the lives of three of them. One was already dead by the time Harris reached him while another died before being fully rescued. He was then told to stop diving back into the water because everyone else who hadn’t been rescued by that point was dead.

Emotional and Physically Injured

According to an attorney representing Harris, the man injured his right arm and the right side of his back during his frantic rescue efforts. Harris also knocked a crown out of his mouth.

The lawsuit said that Harris is also suffering survivor’s guilt and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

According to the Mayo Clinic, PTSD “is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event—either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.”

Harris also had to quit his job on the Showboat Branson Belle because of his suffering, according to the lawsuit, reported the Kansas City Star.

NTD Photo
Rescue personnel work after an amphibious duck boat capsized and sank, at Table Rock Lake near Branson, Stone County, Missouri, on July 19, 2018. (Southern Stone County Fire Protection District/Facebook/via Reuters)

“(He) has suffered anxiety of body and mind and has suffered emotional upset and loss of enjoyment of life, has suffered ongoing inability to sleep, horrific nightmares, distress, trauma, and post-traumatic stress,” the suit stated.

Thirty-one people were on board the duck boat when it sank; 17 people died and all 14 others were injured.

“The Duck Boat sank only a few minutes from land, and safety,” the lawsuit stated in part. “Had defendants and/or each of them made the decision to turn back soon, they would have likely been able to save the lives of the passengers, and avoid injuries.”

The National Weather Service had issued a thunderstorm warning, specifically naming Table Rock Lake, but no effort was made by the captain to take the vessel back to shore. Winds nearing hurricane-force were recorded in the area, around 70 miles per hour.

A Coast Guard document made public in early August said that the duck boat violated an agreement that states it shouldn’t be on the water when winds exceed 35 miles per hour. The Coast Guard has launched an inquiry into the accident.

Money Raised

Of the 17 people who died, nine were from the samily family.

Tia Coleman was one of the few survivors in the family; her husband and three children were among the dead.

More than $600,000 was raised for Coleman through an online fundraiser.

Coleman said the captain of the boat had told passengers they wouldn’t need life jackets, despite the visibly changing weather.

She said she was struggling with grief over the deaths of family members but believed that God had saved her and praised the rescuers, calling them angels.

In late July, it was reported that most of the survivors had been discharged from the hospital.

Meanwhile, authorities were raising the duck boat from the bottom of the lake and planned to transport it to a secure facility as part of a federal investigation into the accident. The company that builds the boats has previously admitted it failed to comply with national vehicle manufacturing standards.

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