NTSB report indicates likely cause of deadly ‘Ride the Ducks’ crash on Aurora Bridge

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OLYMPIA, Wash. -- New information from the National Transportation Safety Board indicates a front axle failure is likely to blame for that deadly accident between a Ride the Duck amphibious and a charter bus in September.

The crash happened on the busy Aurora Bridge and killed five people.

The NTSB said the left front axle on boat 6 did have an earlier modification -– but it may not have been part of the 2013 service bulletin from the parent company.

The report came out after a hearing at the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission where the regulatory agency discussed their progress into its own investigation.

The NTSB’s preliminary report said the driver of boat 6 said he heard a loud bang and then he lost control, crossing the centerline and tearing i to the side of a charter bus going in the opposite direction on the bridge.

Attorneys for Ride the Ducks told state regulators the company is anxious to get their vehicles back on the road.

“We still have a sense of urgency in getting the 10 truck ducks up and running,” said Pat Buchanan, a Ducks attorney. “They have been inspected.”

The UTC suspended the company’s license shortly after the crash. Since then state regulators have been asking tough questions about the company's safety practices since NTSB investigators determined the front axle of the boat sheered off.

“How well do they maintain those vehicles?” said Dave Pratt with the UTC. “How well do they service them? How well do they train their drivers?”

An October 2013 bulletin from Ride the Ducks International, the company that converts the boats into tourist vehicles, recommended safety modifications to the front axles. The state and federal investigators are trying to determine if the Seattle company ever received those fixes.

The NTSB report reveals that duck 6 did have axle modifications, but investigators said those were not associated with the 2013 bulletin.

The commission did not make any decision during Tuesday’s hearing about the future of the Ducks.

The state is expected to present its investigation by December 15.

The NTSB’s final report may not be out for a year.