Sobbing in grief and anger, Karen Abbott swung into the Ride The Ducks parking lot Friday night, wanting retribution for the death of her loved ones.
“I think this company should have their ass sued off of them and every penny they made should be returned to every victim that’s ever lost their lives in this,” she said.
The pain in her voice was palpable.
Abbott was supposed to be driving down to Branson to meet her brother, William Bright of Higginsville, and her sister-in-law, Janice, of more than 40 years.
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“I knew nothing about this until this morning at work, when my boss was discussing the accident,” she said. It was only then that she found out that her brother and sister-in-law were among 17 who died Thursday night on Table Rock Lake, when the duck boat they were riding in sank in violent waves and swells of whitecaps.
“Needless to say, I fell apart because I couldn’t reach them on cellphones,” she said.
Bright, 65, and his wife, Janice, 64, had come down to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary. Abbott had planned to meet them. The Brights have three daughters and 16 grandchildren, and were expecting the 17th.
Abbott talked of her brother as her “best friend in the whole world.”
“It was just he and I,” she said.
Their father died 41 years ago, their mother 31.
Asked whether the Ride The Ducks company had erred in some way leading to her brother’s and sister-in-law’s deaths, she erupted.
“I think this company has made mistakes since 1994,” she said. “And they have consistently done the same thing. They take people on water where no one knows how deep it is, in a vehicle that goes on land and water. They don’t make you wear life jackets! . . . It’s ridiculous!”
She said the company had not reached out to her in any way. “Not a word,” Abbott said.
Abbott said she had tried to call to find out how she could retrieve her brother’s car. The company took her information, but never responded. Her life is now in upheaval. Abbott lives in Mountain View, Mo.
Before reaching Branson, her stop was in Springfield at the coroner’s office to retrieve her brother’s and sister-in-law’s belongings.
“I was coming down today after work to spend the rest of the weekend with them,” Abbott said. They’d planned on seeing the Million Dollar Quartet.
“Most people say they don’t like their sister-in-laws. I’ve loved Janice for 47 years. She was my friend before she was my sister,” she said.
Grateful for caring people, Abbott said she had not expected to see the heaps of flowers on her brother’s car. Strangers continued to hand her flowers and embrace her.
“I don’t see why they don’t mandatory make them wear life jackets,” said Abbott’s son, William Krebs, 42, who drove his mother to Branson. “There was weather bulletins from Kansas City all the way down here. ... I don’t know why they they even went on the water.”