‘Fun’ tour of Seattle turns into deadly nightmare for students

25 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

At least 3 fatal Duck-tour accidents nationally since 1999.

SEATTLE — A fun day designed to introduce new international college students to Seattle turned into a nightmare when a “duck boat” tour vehicle collided into their charter bus on a busy bridge, killing four students and injuring dozens.

Seattle – Four students were killed on Thursday when an amphibious tour bus and a charter bus carrying foreign college students collided head-on on a Seattle bridge, authorities said.As a Ride the Ducks vehicle crossed the Aurora Bridge late Thursday morning, the driver told passengers it was their best chance to photograph Lake Union.Before Thursday’s multiple-fatality collision in Seattle, at least three other fatal accidents involving Duck tourist vehicles had been reported nationally since 1999, federal records, news reports and interviews show. The vacation they had been looking forward to for two months finally arrived and it was set to be a full weekend celebrating the engagement of their son. Rujia Xie and other North Seattle College students were on their way to the city’s iconic Pike Place Market and Safeco Field for new student orientation events Thursday when she heard the crash from the back of the bus.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said 51 people were treated at area hospitals, with 15 of those in critical condition, after the crash on the busy Aurora Bridge, which crosses a canal linking Lake Union with the Puget Sound’s Shilshole Bay. Traveling in the opposite direction, two Philadelphia friends on a road trip across the country, Brad Volm and Bradley Sawhill, were cruising over picturesque Lake Union when they said they saw the duck boat’s left tire “lock up” as it swerved into the charter bus, broadsiding it. The latest accident occurred in Philadelphia in May, when one of the amphibious military vehicles-turned-tourist conveyors struck and killed a Texas woman at a busy intersection during rush hour, news reports show. The crash resulted in four fatalities and numerous injuries. (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times) Gesner looked up and saw the amphibious vehicle careening into oncoming traffic, headed for the side of a tour bus.

Such Duck-involved fatalities have periodically cast a pall over an otherwise jovial niche-tourist business that exploded in the 1990s and now has firms operating Ducks in cities nationwide. As his wife laid on a stretcher she called her son who was working downtown Seattle. “I left work immediately and drove over there,” Cliff Steinhauer said. “There were probably a half-dozen firetrucks, a dozen ambulance, police.

The duck boat then hit another car with a roof rack then went head on into the oncoming tour bus,” Christenson told the Seattle Times newspaper. “The scene was pretty gruesome… His wife sustained a shoulder injury. “It just really takes it out of you when you see a paramedic walk up to a lady and put his fingers on her neck and her wrist and she is not breathing,” he said. That review included checking that the company’s 35 drivers at the time had all required licenses and certifications, and that its 17 amphibious vehicles then operating were roadworthy. Because an 8-mile stretch of Aurora was the third-worst accident corridor in the state, safety experts recommended widening lanes and adding a median barrier to the bridge to prevent head-on collisions. “Twelve years ago there was a formal recommendation to improve the safety of this bridge, and the fact that as a city and a state have not done that is just gut-wrenching for everyone,” Carlyle said.

WARNING: Contains graphic images. (Seattle Times Staff) Jesse Christenson, 32, of Portland, was driving north over the bridge behind the Duck vehicle at 11:11 a.m. Coast Guard in Seattle also reported Thursday it annually inspects the company’s 20 Ducks now in operation to ensure they’re fit to operate in Lake Union. The agency has no record of any safety incident involving a Duck in Seattle waters, and a spokesman said Duck #6 — the vehicle involved in Thursday’s accident — was last inspected and approved for operations in March. But then he got a close-up view after the accident. “It looked like the wheel on the Duck bus broke off,” Christenson said. “There was a wheel assembly in front of the Duck boat.” Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said Thursday evening that it was too early to draw any conclusions as to the cause of the deadly crash, which will be investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Verified email addresses: All users on Independent Media news sites are now required to have a verified email address before being allowed to comment on articles. Since approval of that law, which requires a different person to fill the tour guide’s role, the Duck tours in that city closed, citing a “challenging business environment.” Other fatalities involving Ducks include a Duck being overrun by a tugboat-towed barge in 2010 in the Delaware River in Philadelphia, drowning two student tourists from Hungary.

Tourists pay up to $29 for what’s described as a “party on wheels,” with singalongs and a route that includes the Space Needle, Pioneer Square and a plunge into Lake Union. General Manager Richard Johnson told The Bellingham Herald that the driver was not injured but is struggling to grapple with the aftermath of the crash.

Because those killed in the crash were international students, government officials are working to contact next of kin before releasing their names, according to the college. Seattle Times staff reporters Sandi Doughton, Christine Clarridge, Paige Cornwell, Coral Garnick, Katherine Long, Jennifer Sullivan, Bob Young, Evan Bush, Steve Miletich, Jack Broom and JoNel Aleccia contributed to this story, which includes information from The Associated Press.

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