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Carson Introduces Bill to Improve Duck Boat Safety in Response to Coleman Family Tragedy

Dec 13, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC -  Congressman André Carson introduced a vessel safety bill in response to the loss of 17 people, including nine Hoosiers, who drowned in Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri, when their duck boat sank in July. Congressman Carson’s legislation implements safety regulations for amphibious passenger vessels, including duck boats.

Since 1999 more than 40 people have died in duck boats accidents, the vast majority of them from drowning when the vessel sunk. In 2002, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued recommendations to improve the safety of the vessels in cases of flooding or sinking, but little has been done to implement those measures.

“It could take months or years before we know exactly what went wrong in Branson,” said Congressman Carson. “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.”

Specifically, Congressman Carson’s 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.

While vessel operators work to comply with the reserve buoyancy requirements, this bill directs them to implement interim measures to improve vessel safety, including:

  1. Removing or replacing canopies from vessels for waterborne operations, with structures that do not restrict escape in the event of flooding or sinking;
  2. Require that all passengers wear a personal flotation device while the vessel is on the water; and
  3. Require compliance with existing Coast Guard regulations related to the inspection, configuration, and operation of such vessels.

This is the House companion to Senate Bill 3301.

Congressman Carson spoke with the Coleman family in Indianapolis to personally update them on the bill’s introduction. The Coleman family lost nine family members in the tragedy. Tia Coleman, who is one of two survivors from her family of 11, lost her husband Glenn and her children Reece (nine years old), Evan (seven years old), and Arya (one year old). Tia’s 13-year old nephew, Donovan Hall, is the other surviving family member. He lost his mother Angela, his younger brother Maxwell (two years old), his uncle Ervin (76 years old), and grandparents Butch (70 years old), and Belinda (69 years old).

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