Parents sue Big Cedar Lodge after child dies in Branson boat accident

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BRANSON, Mo. — The parents of a 16-year-old Missouri girl who died in an accident on Table Rock Lake are suing Big Cedar Lodge and others, claiming their rental boat was defective.

Chris Johnson and Michelle Taylor, from the St. Louis area, filed the wrongful death lawsuit in Taney County, 16 months after their daughter Kendall Johnson died when she was run over by a boat near Breezy Point.

According to the lawsuit, Chris Johnson and his children were vacationing in the Branson area in July 2022 when they rented a pontoon boat from Big Cedar Lodge’s Camp Long Creek Marina. They took the boat to a cliff-jumping area and Chris Johnson stayed on board, floating, as his children and their friends jumped off the cliff.

A short time later, the lawsuit says another boater yelled at Chris Johnson to tell him his boat was drifting close to another boat.

As Chris went to move the boat, a wake hit the boat, causing Chris to fall forward. Either Chris’s arm or the driver’s seat then hit the throttle. The driver’s seat broke and, as Chris fell to the floor, the boat accelerated forward, hitting Kendall and another child before crashing into the cliffs, according to the lawsuit.

Kendall died because of injuries caused by the propeller. The other victim had minor injuries.

The lawsuit claims the boat was defective because the seat was not sturdy enough and it did not have a throttle interlock — a safety mechanism designed to prevent the boat’s throttle from accidentally moving from neutral into forward or reverse. The lawsuit also says Big Cedar employees did not warn Chris or give him instructions regarding those issues.

The other defendants in the case were involved with either manufacturing, selling or lending the boat. They include White River Marine Group, Mercury Marine, Forestar Industries and TMBC Leasing.

OzarksFirst reached out to the defendants for comment but did not hear back.


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