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NTSB launches investigation into deadly ‘duck’ boat, charter bus crash

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SEATTLE -- As the memorial grows on the Aurora Bridge for the four international students killed and the dozens more injured, a large-scale NTSB investigation is also under way to find the cause of Thursday’s crash.

A day after the tragedy, some students hurt in the crash were back at North Seattle College.

“There is definitely an air of somberness and sadness on the campus today,” student body president Sarah Baker said.

There is also a sense of urgency to find out what went wrong. The National Transportation Safety Board arrived in Seattle Friday morning to investigate the fatal crash.

Witnesses say something may have gone wrong with the duck boat's steering or tire. Some witnesses reported seeing red fluid shooting from the front end moments before the duck boat lost control and crossed the center line, slamming into the center of the charter bus.

“This is a major investigation as far as we are concerned,” NTSB member Earl Weener said.

It’s not the first motor coach incident they’ve seen but it is the first duck boat accident they have investigated on land.

“This is a new aspect of amphibious vehicles for us,” Weener said.

As the NTSB scrutinizes every detail, those hurt in the crash just want to forget the chaos.

“I smelled the gas and I jumped off the bus,” said one survivor.

The four who died were all international students from North Seattle College, taking the bus to orientation in preparation for their first day of school Monday.

Baker says her friends are shaken by what they witnessed.

“They saw friends that were hurt, friends that were laying on the ground, that was very traumatic for them,” Baker said.

And for the four families who received the worst news, heartbreak is endless.

“Last night, (Police) Chief O’ Toole and I met with one of the mothers and shared with her that her son had passed away,” Mayor Ed Murray said.

The NTSB says they will investigate the site for about a week. After gathering details, they will head back to headquarters in Washington, D.C., where the investigation will continue. The entire process could take a year, officials said.

NTSB says they will have investigators split up in five different teams. They say the lives lost and the types of vehicles involved in the crash were some of the reasons why they sent a big team of investigators.