SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– It’s been a little more than a month since 17 people died while riding the ducks on Table Rock Lake. Not long after the tragedy, families of those killed started filing lawsuits against ride the ducks and it’s owner, Ripley Entertainment. For the first time since then, the U.S. District Attorney’s Office of Western Missouri is confirming what many have already suspected. 

According to a document released on Wednesday– both the captain of the duck boat that sank, Duck 7, and the captain of the duck boat that made it back that night, Duck 54, are officially “unindicted targets” of this criminal investigation. 

But also, the documents are requesting a stay against all of those lawsuits filed by victims families.

To break down the reasons the document gives for this request for a stay we took the documents to Springfield Based defense attorney Adam Woody. 

“Essentially the U.S. Attorney’s office, who would have jurisdiction of Taney County and Southwest Missouri, is attempting to intervene in the civil cases that are pending,” he says. “It could take years frankly.”

While Woody says the stay would certainly lengthen the amount of time this case spends in court, he points out, the document argues all evidence and witnesses collected in these lawsuits are virtually identical to what federal investigators are focusing on. Putting the lawsuits on pause would allow the investigation to go without interference. 

“They are just wanting to ensure that their witnesses or officers or investigating agencies are the first to question these witnesses, to get these witnesses statements under oath, and to ensure that they are reliable and consistent throughout the investigation.”

But he says halting the civil cases would also prevent the defense team for Ripley from talking to those witnesses, or accessing any of the evidence, while the U.S. attorneys investigate.

“Obviously the defense in the civil case is going to want this evidence as soon as possible. And if the government tries to stay the case, I would expect the defense to try and have the cases dismissed by the court.”