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Man who tried to save passengers of sunken duck boat says he's suffered, files suit

Kansas City Star logoKansas City Star 8/18/2018 By Laura Bauer, The Kansas City Star

a group of people on a boat: The buck boat is hauled out of the water on Monday, July 23, 2018, at Table Rock Lake in Branson, Mo. © J.B. Forbes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS The buck boat is hauled out of the water on Monday, July 23, 2018, at Table Rock Lake in Branson, Mo.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A man who jumped into Table Rock Lake to help passengers after a tour boat sank says he has suffered physically and emotionally and is suing the owner and captain of the Ride the Ducks vessel.

Gregory Harris filed the suit earlier this week in Taney County, saying he now has post-traumatic stress from what he experienced the evening of July 19. He says he also hurt himself physically and had to quit his job on the Showboat Branson Belle after he tried to save people in the water on July 19.

Harris, who was working on the Belle cruise ship that night, said he pulled several people from the lake, many of whom were already deceased or later died. At one point, the lawsuit says, Harris tried to save a young boy and "broke down" when he realized the child had died by the time they were able to pull him from the water.

"Plaintiff (Harris) has been rendered nervous by the incident," according to the 26-page lawsuit. "(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 lawsuit went on to say that Harris replays the events of that night in his "waking and subconscious mind."

The suit is against Ripley Entertainment, Ride the Ducks International and Kenneth Scott McKee, who was captaining the duck boat that night. Harris is represented by attorney Jeff Bauer and the Strong, Garner, Bauer law firm in Springfield.

McKee, his driver and 29 passengers were on board Stretch Duck 07 when it sank. Seventeen people, including five children, died. Nine of the victims who died were from one Indianapolis family.

Harris was working on the Showboat Branson Belle when Stretch Duck 07 and another Ride the Ducks boat began to struggle in the churning water. When 07 sank, Harris jumped into the lake to try to rescue passengers.

The first 911 call about the boat came at 7:09 p.m., 14 minutes after the boat entered the water.

The National Weather Service had issued a severe thunderstorm warning at 6:32 p.m., specifically naming Table Rock Lake. The warning said winds in excess of 60 mph were possible. In reality, winds on the lake reached 73 mph with waves more than three feet.

According to a recent report by the National Transportation Safety Board, the captain and driver were on board at 6:28 that evening when someone stepped onto the back of the boat and told the crew to take the water portion of the tour first. It isn't known who that person is.

Harris was on board the Belle and saw the duck boat struggling. When he heard someone say the boat had gone down and life jackets were needed, Harris ran to help, the suit said.

"Heedless of his own safety, Greg jumped into wind-driven surge of the lake to try and rescue anyone he could that defendant'(s) negligence put at risk," according to the lawsuit.

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