Last updated: 05:26 PM ET, Sat September 26 2015

NTSB Investigating Latest Deadly Duck Boat Crash

Impacting Travel | Michael Isenbek | September 26, 2015

NTSB Investigating Latest Deadly Duck Boat Crash

Photo via Twitter/ianbruce99

Looking for a unique sightseeing experience, many tourists have chosen to explore U.S. cities by “duck boat,” an amphibious vehicle that provides perspectives from both the street and the water.

But in the wake of a duck boat’s deadly collision with a tour bus on a bridge in Seattle Thursday, the safety of these World War II surplus landing craft is undergoing renewed scrutiny, with critics calling for their outright ban, the Associated Press reported.

"I just remember it felt like we lost control, and I looked up and saw the bus headed toward us," duck boat passenger Katie Moody, 30, from Fremont, California said to the AP. “Hearing the impact, that was the scariest part," she added, breaking into tears as she told her story from a hospital bed, recovering from a broken collarbone.

Moody was one of 36 tourists on the duck boat when it crashed into a charter bus carrying about 45 students and staff from North Seattle College. The bus passengers were headed to the city’s popular Pike Place Market, then Safeco Field for orientation events when the accident occurred, according to the AP.

Richard Johnson, president of Bellair Charters, told the AP Friday the charter bus driver reported the duck boat "careened" into them on the bridge.

Four students from Austria, China, Indonesia and Japan were killed.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating, a first for a duck boat incident on land, NTSB member Earl Weener said in a news conference, according to the AP. The agency has looked into several duck boat accidents on water, Weener noted.

"Duck boats are dangerous on the land and on the water. They shouldn't be allowed to be used," Robert Mongeluzzi, a Philadelphia attorney, asserted to the AP Friday.

His firm represented the families of victims in a 2010 crash near Philadelphia in the Delaware River. In that accident, a barge ran into a stalled duck boat filled with tourists, sinking the craft and killing two Hungarian students. The firm now represents the family of a woman killed by a duck boat this past May in Philadelphia, the AP said.

"They were created to invade a country from the water, not to carry tourists," Mongeluzzi pointed out to the AP.

The amphibious boats were deployed in the thousands by the U.S. Army in the Second World War. After the conflict ended, some were converted into sightseeing vehicles. Though according to the Ride the Ducks website, some are newly built but the same in appearance with “the latest in marine safety.”

The focus of the duck boat driver is also being questioned. The AP notes “exuberant” tour guides at the wheel blasting music and quacking through speakers.

"This is a business model that requires the driver to be a driver, tour guide and entertainer at the same time," attorney Steve Bulzomi said to the AP. Bulzomi represents a Seattle motorcyclist who was run over and dragged by a duck boat that came up from behind at a stoplight in 2011.

Brian Tracey, Ride the Ducks Seattle, which is independently owned and operated, said to the AP it was too early to speculate, but he declared "We will get to the bottom" of the crash.

Tracey told the AP the captains/drivers are Coast Guard-certified, possess commercial driver’s licenses and are required to take continuing education once a month.

State regulators issued a satisfactory rating after a comprehensive safety inspection in 2012. The company operates 17 amphibious vehicles and employs 35 drivers, according to the state review, the AP said.

NTSB member Weener, said federal authorities' goal in this latest duck boat investigation is to prevent future accidents. "We'd like to find out what... the industry can do to make sure it doesn't happen again," he said Friday.

Investigators would spend a week or more at the site of the crash. A typical investigation lasts a year, Weener said, according to the AP.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said, via the AP that Ride the Ducks Seattle has “voluntarily sidelined” its fleet of vehicles for the time being.

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