ST. LOUIS – Friday, July 19 marked the one-year anniversary of the duckboat tragedy at Table Rock Lake. The duckboat capsized during turbulent weather on the lake. Seventeen people drowned after being unable to escape the boat.
One of the victims, 69-year-old Bill Asher, was from St. Louis. He was with girlfriend Rose Heupel Hamann, who also died. Asher’s daughter and her attorney spoke with Fox 2 after finishing their settlement.
“To this day, it feels numb still; but you just have to keep going,” said Jennifer Asher, Bill’s daughter.
Jennifer and her two siblings recently won a massive settlement. Their lawyer, John Wilbers, said a confidentiality agreement prevents them from discussing the amount publicly. However, Wilbers said the settlement provides some closure to a horrific incident.
“There’s no way to quantify a loss of life, relationship. That’s priceless. But money does provide a way for closure,” Wilbers said. “They wanted the industry, as far as duckboats, to change.”
No duckboats are allowed to operate in Missouri at the moment and probably never will again. Three employees of the duckboat company, including the boat captain, have been charged in federal court.
Wilbers said the 17 lives lost on the lake were preventable. The National Transportation Safety Board had made recommendations following a 1999 duckboat incident where 13 people died, that duckboats get $12,000 worth of safety precautions added to stop such an incident from happening. However, the boats were never modified.
“This is a company that advertises safe, family fun,” Wilbers said. “We rely on that as consumers. You could have been with your children, I could have been with my children; that’s scary!”
Most of the lawsuits have either been settled or are being settled. Jennifer Asher said without the guidance of her attorneys, her family wouldn’t be where they are.
She said the family is happy with the settlement and getting duckboats off Missouri waters but it can’t bring her dad back.
“Everyone he met, there was never a stranger. He befriended everyone them and they walked away knowing who Bill Asher was,” she said. “He was a legend here in St. Louis and he’s my hometown hero.”