Washington State Suspends Operations of Duck Tour Company

29 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Axle from duck boat in deadly crash ‘sheared off’.

SEATTLE — Washington state regulators suspended the operations of a Seattle tour company Monday after one of its amphibious vehicles swerved into an oncoming charter bus last week, killing five people and hurting dozens of others. The death toll in the Seattle crash of a Ride the Ducks vehicle rose to five yesterday when a 20-year-old woman succumbed to injuries she received when the tourist vessel veered into a charter bus.SEATTLE (AP) — The company that refurbished the duck boat involved in a crash that killed five people in Seattle says it had no reason to believe the vehicle’s owner had not made a recommended repair.

SEATTLE (AP) — A deadly collision last week in Seattle between a duck boat and a charter bus carrying international college students has prompted a federal investigation. The state Utilities and Transportation Commission met in an emergency session to keep the repurposed military “duck boats” off the streets pending inspections and a review of driver and maintenance records. The company says the service bulletin applied to 57 duck boats, including some in Seattle; Philadelphia; Stone Mountain Park, Georgia; Branson, Missouri; and Newport, Kentucky. Authorities have identified the others who were killed as: Runje Song, 17, of China; Privando Putradanto, 18, of Indonesia; Mami Sato, 36, of Japan; and Claudia Derschmidt, 49, of Austria. The North Seattle College, which the worldwide students onboard the bus attended, has also established a support center for families or students affected by the tragedy.

Investigators are reviewing witness reports of a possible mechanical issue on the duck vehicle, police said on Thursday. “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. “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. Jay Inslee and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray that the duck boats remain sidelined pending state scrutiny of the vehicles. “I believe that until we can be assured that each of these vehicles and drivers have been inspected, they should not be back on Seattle streets,” Inslee said in a statement.

Since the sightseeing vessels are built on chassis manufactured in the 1940s, they are exempt from federal motor vehicle safety standards, Mongeluzzi said. The crash has put renewed focus on the safety of duck boats, which are circa-WWII military-style vehicles that give tourists a view of a city by both land and water.

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. In San Francisco, recent regulations have banned drivers from acting as the tour guides, requiring companies to have an additional employee who can fill that role, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. It wasn’t clear what prompted it, how the potential failure was discovered or whether it applied to all duck boats or only those that the company had refurbished, Weener said. Nine victims of the crash remain at Harborview Medical Center, including three in serious condition and in intensive care, spokeswoman Susan Gregg said Monday.

Thirteen people died in 1999 when an amphibious boat sank to the bottom of Lake Hamilton in Arkansas in an accident the National Transportation Safety Board blamed on inadequate maintenance. Investigators determined that the vessel, built by the Army in 1944, was not designed for passenger service and as a result lacked the proper buoyancy to remain afloat.

The alert included specific instructions for inspecting the area where the shaft could fail as well as instructions for the repair, which involved welding collars around the axle shaft, Weener said. Federal investigators said the left front axle of the vehicle involved in the crash was sheared off, but it was not clear if the axle had broken before or after the collision. Two Hungarian tourists were killed in 2010 when a sightseeing duck boat was hit by a barge on the Delaware River near Philadelphia, sinking it in water about 55 feet deep.

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