SEATTLE (AP) — The deadly crash on a Seattle bridge involving an amphibious vehicle and a charter bus is not the first mishap on the nation’s roads and waterways involving “duck boats.” A look at the industry and past accidents:
WHAT ARE DUCK BOATS?
The Army deployed thousands of amphibious landing craft during World War II that were known then by their military designation, DUKW. Once the war was over, they became used by civilian law enforcement agencies and also converted to sightseeing vehicles in U.S. cities. The DUKW designation was replaced with the duck boat moniker that is used by various tour companies, primarily in cities with abundant water.
The company that owns the Seattle amphibious vehicle says its pilots are Coast Guard-certified captains and also have commercial driver’s licenses that allow them to drive on the road.
“Don’t fret, before you even step on board your fun-filled tour of Seattle, your Captain has completed an intense and rigorous training program!” the company says on its website.
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 U.S. Army in 1944, was not designed for passenger service and as a result lacked the proper buoyancy to remain afloat. The NTSB recommended several safety improvements to prevent future accidents.
In 2000, a part fell off the engine of a Milwaukee amphibious tourist boat, causing the vessel to sink in Lake Michigan. The 17 passengers and two crew members were rescued, and no one was injured.
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. More than 25 people were injured. The NTSB found that the tugboat operator was distracted by communicating with family members on his cellphone and laptop computer. Investigators also found fault with the maintenance of the duck boat and decisions by the captain to anchor in an active navigation channel.
Austin Porter was running errands on his motorcycle in downtown Seattle in 2011 when one of the boats ran him over and dragged him a short distance. He had been stopped at a traffic signal, and when the light turned green, he was suddenly overtaken by the duck boat — which only stopped when pedestrians began banging on the hull and screaming at the driver. At the time, Porter’s lawyer turned up two other recent cases in which duck boats had rear-ended vehicles at stoplights — and in both cases, the drivers told police they couldn’t see the other vehicle because of the height of their own, collision reports said.