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Ride the Ducks of Seattle CEO defends company in civil lawsuit over deadly Aurora Bridge crash

SEATTLE - The CEO of Ride the Ducks of Seattle, Brian Tracey, took the stand in court defending his company for hours on Thursday.

Dozens of plaintiffs are suing multiple parties in a civil lawsuit regarding the 2015 Aurora Bridge crash. Ride the Ducks of Seattle is one of them. The plaintiffs claim the company neglected to maintain their duck boat properly before it lost control and crashed into a charter bus carrying North Seattle College students.

Five students were killed and dozens more injured. Tracey fielded tough questions that included his role on overseeing safety standards and why he did not know about a service bulletin.

Tracey told the jury on Thursday that safety is his top priority.

“I put my children on these ducks and I have for 21 years,” Tracey said.

The Plaintiffs attorney Karen Koehler asked him to list what he felt his responsibilities were on a whiteboard in front of a jury on Thursday.

“It starts off by hiring the right people,” Tracey said.

Tracey says he is not involved in the day to day operations, he trust his management team with keeping up to speed on the safety of the duck boats.

Koehler repeatedly asked Tracey if he felt his company had enough mechanics on staff.

She brought up incidents in the past where she says Tracey’s management team expressed there wasn’t enough mechanics.

Tracey told the court that he addressed those issues by changing the schedules of the mechanics and that over the years he nearly doubled the number of mechanics as well as increase the number of duck boats.

Koehler also brought up a 2013 service bulletin that was sent out by Ride the Ducks International. The bulletin was shown in court on Thursday in which it advises the Seattle company to strengthen the wheel axles.

Tracey says no one on his management team told him about that service bulletin.

“We didn`t know we had any axle issues,” Tracey said.

Koehler told Tracey he should have known and that his failure to know was inexcusable.

"At the time we did everything that we could do knowing what we knew at the time it was an accident,” Tracey said.

But the dozens of plaintiffs Koehler represents says the incident was not an accident but a preventable tragedy. An NTSB investigation found that the crash happened after one of the front axles of the duck boat broke off. The amphibious vehicle crashed into a charter bus killing 5 people and injuring dozens of others.

Tracey says he feels personally responsible and that not a day goes by when he does not think about what happened.

However he says the service bulletin was not something that was ever brought up to him and he still says at that time his company did not fail in their efforts to put safety first.