Critics say duck boats are too dangerous for city streets

26 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

12 years since Duck vehicle in fatal crash got state inspection.

The Ride the Ducks vehicle involved in Thursday’s deadly crash on the Aurora Bridge has not undergone a state inspection for at least 12 years, transportation regulators acknowledged Friday. SEATTLE (AP) — The National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into the deadly crash of a duck boat and charter bus is the first time the agency has looked into a land crash of the amphibious vehicles critics say are too dangerous for city streets.SEATTLE — People with foreign language skills were, by necessity, among the first emergency workers to respond to a horrific bus accident on Thursday that killed four international college students and sent nearly 50 other people to hospitals.SEATTLE — Students and faculty, some arm in arm, filed into a private memorial service in a lecture hall Friday at a Seattle college to honor four international students killed when an amphibious tour vehicle struck their charter bus. But even as the trauma teams scrambled to treat, identify and communicate with the victims, many of whom spoke little or no English and had just arrived in America this week, there was a terrible hole in the response: No speaker of German could be found, and a 15-year-old boy had to be told that his mother was dead.

Even before the crash, calls had emerged for greater oversight and even an outright ban on the military-style vehicles that allow tourists to see cities by road and water. “Duck boats are dangerous on the land and on the water. The task fell to a German-speaking employee of the Seattle Department of Transportation, who got word of the problem and then spent most of Thursday night and well into Friday morning at Harborview Medical Center doing what he could to help, Seattle’s mayor, Ed Murray, said at a somber news conference at North Seattle College, where all the victims were enrolled.

They shouldn’t be allowed to be used,” Robert Mongeluzzi, a Philadelphia attorney, said Friday, renewing his call for a moratorium on their operation nationwide. For a company this size, our inspector typically conducts inspections on five vehicles, which was what the 2012 inspection consisted of.” Information about the state’s last inspection on Duck No. 6 emerged Friday amid three separate investigations launched in the accident’s wake. The four students were identified as Runjie Song, 17, of China; Privando Putradanto, 18, of Indonesia; Mami Sato, 36, of Japan; and Claudia Derschmidt, 49, of Austria, who was in Seattle with her 15-year-old son. Some witnesses have reported the Duck appeared to have a mechanical problem with a wheel right before it fishtailed, careened across the bridge’s centerline and slammed broadside into an oncoming Bellair Charters & Airporter bus.

The bus was carrying about 45 students and employees in the college’s popular international program, which draws people of various ages from around the world. Tracey said the captains are certified by the Coast Guard and licensed as commercial drivers, and they are required to take continuing education once a month.

Witnesses to the accident, which also involved two passenger vehicles, reported seeing the northbound duck boat suddenly swerve with what may have been a wheel or tire problem. Ferndale-based Bellair Charters was last inspected by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in 2013 and received a satisfactory rating, state regulators said. Inspectors randomly select the vehicles to check, and a company must make all vehicles available for such reviews, which include mechanical inspections, checks on records, insurance and drivers’ credentials. But the pall hanging over the college, a community college where about 10 percent of students are international and the median age is 29, is just beginning, school officials, students and staff members said.

The UTC employs just five federally trained commercial-vehicle inspectors charged with conducting inspections of all motor carrier firms statewide, she said. Thursday had started happily enough, with two buses setting out on a beautiful fall morning for the college’s traditional get-acquainted-with-the-city tour of places like Pike Place Market.

And so the sense of foreshortened potential — new beginnings and dreams that could not be realized — is part of the pain, people from the college said. Warren The driver of the charter bus reported that the duck boat “careened” into them on the bridge, Richard Johnson, president of Bellair Charters, said Friday. The team includes experts who will examine mechanical conditions of vehicles, along with any potential human, safety mechanism and bridge-structural factors, Weener said. Weener, from the NTSB, said federal authorities’ goal 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 are also asking witnesses who have photographs, video or other relevant information to call a Seattle police hotline at 206-233-5000, Weener said. Such NTSB probes — which can include an on-scene investigation for about a week, followed by months of analysis at NTSB headquarters — typically last about a year, Weener said. From her hospital bed, where she was recovering from a broken collarbone, she broke into tears Friday as she recounted the accident. “I just remember it felt like we lost control, and I looked up and saw the bus headed toward us,” Moody said. “Hearing the impact, that was the scariest part.” The NTSB previously has investigated at least two multiple-fatality accidents involving Duck vehicles in other states, both of which occurred on water.

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