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Rep. Carson’s duck boat safety bill passes House, moves to Biden’s desk

WASHINGTON (WISH) — More than four years after a Missouri duck boat accident killed nearly 20 people — including 9 members of an Indianapolis family — a duck boat safety bill will soon become law.

The Duck Boat Safety Improvement Act, authored by Democrat U.S. Rep. André Carson (IN-07) has passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is on its way to the desk of President Joe Biden.

Carson started working on the legislation after a duck boat filled with tourists sank in windy conditions on Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri, in 2018.

Nine members of the Coleman family were killed in the accident. Only Tia Coleman and her nephew, Donovan, survived. In all, 17 of the 31 people aboard the duck boat were killed.

The bill took a large step toward becoming law in March when the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure — on which Carson serves as a senior member — voted to include the measure in the 2022 Coast Guard Reauthorization act.

“More than four years ago, during what was supposed to be a fun family outing, nine members of the Coleman family from Indianapolis were killed in a duck boat accident. Today, my Duck Boat Safety Improvement Act will be sent to President Biden for signature,” Carson said in a statement Thursday. “Thanks to the advocacy of Tia Coleman, who survived the 2018 incident, countless lives will be saved. I want to thank Tia for her tireless advocacy. This multi-year work is dedicated to the Coleman family and all whose lives have been tragically lost in duck boat accidents.” 

Once signed into law, the act will require vessel operators to implement specific 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.

In April 2022, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt refiled charges against three men involved in the sinking, including the boat’s captain and two general managers.