Duck Boat Safety Improvement Act of 2022

Floor Speech

Date: Feb. 25, 2022
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CARSON. Madam Speaker, I rise to introduce the Duck Boat Safety Improvement Act of 2022, a bill to implement safety regulations for amphibious passenger vessels, particularly those known as duck boats. These safety recommendations were made by federal agencies to address persistent problems associated with duck boats that have resulted in far too many injuries and fatalities.

I became much more aware of these problems when my constituents, the Coleman family, were involved in a horrible duck boat accident on July 19, 2018 in Branson, Missouri. Tia Coleman was one of only two survivors from her family of 11, losing 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 Coleman, was the other surviving family member, losing his mother Angela, his younger brother Maxwell (two years old), his uncles Ervin (76 years old) and Butch (70 years old), and his aunt Belinda (69 years old). Boarding a duck boat on Table Rock Lake started out as a fun outing for family members, but turned into an unspeakable tragedy when the boat capsized and sank. Seventeen of the 31 passengers on board were killed.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and U.S. Coast Guard have separately investigated the incident and the last few aspects of the investigation should be completed soon.

But Congress should not wait to act. We know from past incidents that more can be done to make these vessels safer. Since 1999, more than 40 people have died in duck boats accidents, the vast majority of them from drowning when the vessel sinks. The NTSB in 2002 issued recommendations to improve the safety of the vessels in flooding or sinking situations but little has been done to implement those measures.

Duck boats are hybrid vehicles that can travel on roadways and waterways, so the safety measures must be updated for both land and waterborne operations.

The Duck Boat Safety Improvement Act will require vessel operators to implement commonsense boating safety measures, 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.

These basic safety requirements will help save lives and prevent future tragedies. I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting this bill to make commnsense corrections to the persistent safety problems facing duck boats so that no other family must suffer the kind of tragedy faced by my constituents on Table Rock Lake. I urge the House to support this bill.