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Duck boat survivor's lawyer urges Coast Guard to adopt NTSB recommendations

Lawyer Robert J. Mongeluzzi is urging the U.S. Coast Guard to immediately enforce the NTSB's safety recommendations on duck boats.

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — The lawyer for Tia Coleman — Indianapolis native and survivor of the tragic duck boat accident in Branson, Missouri in 2018 — is urging the U.S. Coast Guard to immediately enforce regulations to make duck boats safer.

Robert J. Mongeluzzi represents multiple survivors of the incident. He called for the Coast Guard to "once and for all stop the senseless deaths" after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) once again issued safety recommendations Wednesday. The NTSB has issued 22 recommendations related to duck boats since 1999. The agency found the Coast Guard had only required nine of them to be implemented.

The NTSB said the failure to implement those recommendations "likely increased the number of fatalities" in the Branson incident. Seventeen people died — nine of them coming from Coleman's extended family. NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said if previous recommendations had been implemented, the Branson accident could have been prevented.

"We demand that the Coast Guard finally makes passenger safety its highest priority and immediately do what it should have done 17 years ago, in 2002, when the NTSB made the same duck-boat safety recommendations following the May 1, 1999 Miss Majestic duck boat sinking near Hot Springs, Arkansas," Mongeluzzi said.

In the Arkansas accident, 13 people, including five children, drowned.

Some of the recommendations included addressing the lack of reserve buoyancy and the dangers of canopies.

"The duck boat and the Coast Guard's failure to act on the NTSB's recommendations to remove death trap canopies and improve the buoyancy of these boats killed my family," Coleman said in a statement through Mongeluzzi. "I am publicly requesting the Commandant of the Coast Guard to meet with me to discuss these recommendations and work together to save lives."

The NTSB said the Branson accident is still under investigation and probable cause has not yet been determined.

Ripley Entertainment, who owned the Branson boats, has settled 30 lawsuits filed on behalf of the victims. A federal grand jury has indicted the boat's captain and the boat company's general manger and operations supervisor.

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