Critics say duck boats too dangerous for city streets

26 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

After fatal Seattle crash, calls grow for duck boat ban.

Original post: The driver of a charter bus carrying dozens of North Seattle College students said it appeared the Ride the Ducks driver lost control of the six-wheeled vehicle just before veering into the bus and killing four passengers, said the president of Bellair Charters. “We were heading southbound on Aurora and the Duck boat was heading north,” Richard Johnson said Friday, recalling what the driver told company officials. “The Duck boat lost control and crossed the lanes and into our coach. The bus was carrying 48 students and staff from North Seattle College’s international program during an orientation trip when the collision occurred just after 11 a.m. Students at the two-year college had a private memorial service before Seattle officials had a news conference there. “We didn’t have a chance to develop a long-term relationship with these students,” college President Warren Brown said. “But for someone to come from another country to learn here, to be excited about an opportunity to see the city, … it’s painful.” One student, Claudia Derschmidt, 49, of Austria, had come to Seattle about two weeks ago with her 15-year-old son, Brown said.

A Chinese girl, whose name was not released because she was a minor, was 17; Privaudo Putradauto, 18, was from Indonesia; Mami Sato, 37, was from Japan. One patient remained in critical condition Friday morning at Harborview Medical Center, where the most seriously injured were taken after the 11:15 a.m.

If the UTC determines that there were any violations, or if either driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the companies will face financial penalties, Gill said. In 2012, the UTC conducted a comprehensive safety inspection of Ride the Ducks’ fleet, including driver qualifications, employee drug and alcohol testing and vehicle maintenance records, issuing a satisfactory rating to the company, the agency said. The National Transportation Safety Board is leading an investigation into the crash that shut down the George Washington Bridge over Lake Union, often called the Aurora Bridge, for nearly 12 hours. But he said the NTSB was interested in duck boat safety because other such vehicles are operating in other cities. “We’ll study this incident in-depth,” NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss said. “Of course we look at things that will be of national significance, but we are investigating this accident.” The safety of the amphibious boats has been questioned before. The company’s overall safety record in the last two years appears to be good, according to federal records. “Once the investigators arrive they’ll hit the ground running,” Weiss said. “They will be looking for evidence, they will try to examine the vehicles.” During a briefing Friday afternoon, NTSB officials said they would not speculate on the cause of the crash.

The NTSB, whose team of investigators arrived Friday afternoon, has scrutinized the military-style vehicles several times when they’ve been in accidents on water but this is the first time it has looked into a land crash of the Duck boats, board member Earl Weener said. Thirteen people died in 1999 when an amphibious boat sank to the bottom of Lake Hamilton in Arkansas in an accident the NTSB blamed on inadequate maintenance. “It’s too early to draw any conclusions as to cause of this accident,” Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said. Keith Holloway, an NTSB spokesman, said the agency does not have national statistics for accidents involving Duck boats, whose name is derived from the designation DUKW, six-wheeled amphibious vehicles used as U.S. military landing craft during World War II. The tug operator was sentenced to a year in prison after acknowledging the accident was caused largely by his continuous use of a cellphone and laptop computer while he was steering the barge. His driver wasn’t seriously hurt, but Johnson said he’s concerned with how he’s handling the accident emotionally. “We’ve spoken to the driver who was on the scene, our directors of safety who were on the scene,” Johnson said. “The pictures are reality.

Bulzomi, the lawyer for the Seattle man struck by a duck boat in 2011, said he found two other recent cases in which duck boats rear-ended vehicles at stoplights. The crash resulted in four fatalities and numerous injuries. (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times) The international students killed in the crash have been identified as Claudia Derschmidt, a 49-year-old woman from Austria; Privando Putradanto, an 18-year-old man from Indonesia; and Mami Sato, a 36-year-old woman from Japan. Elizabeth Van Inwegen cleared her schedule Friday morning to attend the meeting at the college, where she’s worked for the past two years as an admission-office assistant. She said she works closely with the college’s international students as they arrive on campus each fall, helping them register for classes and test their English and Math abilities. “I was driving home and heard about the crash on the radio,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God.

They didn’t know whether their 18-year-old son was involved in the fatal crash until they woke up at 6 a.m. their time, saw the news and phoned him. Xing, who arrived in Seattle on Sept. 16, wasn’t on the bus because he and two friends, also students from China, had turned down an invitation from a teacher to come along. “We didn’t get on the bus because we just wanted to go downtown by ourselves. We would have been in danger.” In the main courtyard of the campus, passers-by stopped by a table with candles to pen messages of support to the victims and their relatives on slips of paper. “Please write a supportive message to the people who lost a family member or friend in the tragic bus accident,” a sign on the table says. “Any kind words help.

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