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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
Attorney • (877) 377-7848

Are Safety Regulators Ducking The Inevitable?

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Have Ride the Ducks gone from simply being inexpensive fun for tourists to a deadly example of what happens when maintenance and safety practices are neglected for profit? Let’s look at some history of these military-styled vehicles.

Thirteen people died in 1999 when an amphibious boat sank to the bottom of Lake Hamilton in Arkansas. The NTSB blamed the accident on inadequate maintenance. Back in July 2010, two Hungarian students were killed in a collision while they were riding on a Ride the Ducks vehicle in Philadelphia. That boat was floating on the Delaware River when it was struck by a tugboat pulling a barge. The tug operator was sentenced to a year in prison after acknowledging the accident was caused largely by his continuous use of a cellphone and laptop computer while he was steering the barge. In 2011, a Seattle motorcyclist was run down and dragged by a Ride the Ducks vehicle. The duck boat driver only stopped when bystanders began banging on the hull and screaming at the driver. On September 24, five people were killed, 12 critically injured, and more than 30 others suffered other, non-life-threatening injuries when a “duck” veered into a charter bus on the Aurora Avenue Bridge. The deceased were international students on the bus, but dozens of other riders on both vehicles were injured. After the crash, inspectors found 442 safety violations. Seven violations under federal law lead the Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) to call the company’s safety practices “unsatisfactory” and ordered Ride the Ducks to cease operations pending a thorough investigation into the company’s fleet and safety operations.

With 442 safety violations, one might think these relics would finally be facing retirement. But, almost four months later, and with new protocols, the tours have resume through the streets of Seattle. Now, each tour must have two crew members – one as the driver and the other who will serve as the guide and entertainer. While the tours are no longer allowed to use the Aurora Avenue Bridge, the company proposed an alternative route that would go across the Fremont Bridge. Is that any safer? Ride the Ducks must also submit a safety plan by the end of the month demonstrating that it has made necessary improvements to prevent a similar crash. Even so, is it enough?

Critics say the large amphibious vehicles were built for war, not ferrying tourists, and they were not designed to navigate narrow city streets. How many more lives must be lost before these amphibious landing crafts are permanently retired?

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company