Sunday, May 1, 2016

May Days: Duck Boat Disaster

"Woman driving scooter dies after being struck by duck boat" by Laura Crimaldi Globe Staff  April 30, 2016

The duck boat Penelope Pru was stopped at a red light on Charles Street waiting to head up Beacon Hill with a load of tourists on board. Just ahead, also waiting to turn, was a motor scooter with two riders out to enjoy the crisp spring morning.

It was a familiar Boston scene. Then the light, and everything, changed.

“The duck boat just took off and actually went into the back of the people on the scooter,” said Graham Foster, recounting the scene that unfolded before him around 11:30 a.m.

The scooter operator tried to accelerate, Foster said, but could not get out of the duck boat’s way in time. He said witnesses yelled at the duck boat operator and tried to alert him.

“The [scooter] flipped on the side and the next thing you know [the duck boat] ran right over [the scooter],” Foster said.

When the duck boat finally came to a stop, the 29-year-old woman operating the scooter and the man riding with her were on the ground behind the magenta amphibious vessel.

The woman was rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital, where she died, Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said. The man was not seriously injured; both were wearing helmets, he said.

“It looks like a terrible tragedy,” Evans said.

The crash led to a daylong investigation that unfolded as thousands came across the gruesome scene. The scooter was crushed under the driver’s side front wheel of one of the vehicles that give tours and have become synonymous with parades for the city’s championship-winning sports teams.

Foster, who lives in Norton, said the man and woman were not moving after falling to the ground.

The duck boat operator stopped the vehicle, he said.

“He realized he had run over something and stopped and was getting off the bus in a panic,” Foster said. “It was very horrible.”

Evans said none of the 26 to 28 people aboard the duck boat was injured.

Boston police loaded the passengers onto a second duck boat and escorted them to police headquarters to be interviewed, Evans said. The driver was also taken from the scene for questioning, he said.

The collision occurred near a city-owned surveillance camera.

The company, which has been operating since 1994, was never before involved in a fatal accident, said Bob Schwartz, director of marketing and sales for Boston Duck Tours.

In a statement Saturday, the company said, “The thoughts and prayers of the Boston Duck Tours cast and crew are with the victim’s family following today’s tragic accident. . . . Safety is of the utmost importance to our company, and we will continue to provide our cooperation to the authorities.”

Another witness, Jay Beausang, said he was planting a tree at the intersection of Beacon and Charles streets when he saw a person tumble from a scooter and land. Scraping sounds followed, he said.

“A body popped out the back of the duck boat,” said Beausang, the owner of Westwood Nurseries. “I ran over. I got on my knees, held her wrist for a pulse.”

That is horrifying imagery.

Boston Police Sergeant Brian Waters, who was working a detail nearby, also rushed to the woman’s side, telling her again and again, “We’re going to help you,” Beausang said.

The woman tried to talk but was unable to speak, he said. She was not bleeding, Beausang said, but looked like a “rag doll.” He said the man who was also on the scooter told the woman she was going to be OK.

Broke all her bones.

“I didn’t say anything,” said Beausang, who lives in Norfolk. “I just held onto her wrist, felt her pulse fade away.”

That would be traumatic for me.

Beausang said he was interviewed by Boston police, who told him the man and woman were on their first date.

Beacon Hill resident Morgan Ralph said passengers aboard the duck boat appeared stunned as they watched.

“They were all sort of huddled in the back of the duck boat peering down,” said Ralph, who was out shopping when he witnessed the aftermath of the crash.

A section of Beacon Street was closed until about 5:30 p.m. For hours, a pair of women’s shoes and two helmets sat in the street, one behind the duck boat and the other next to the vehicle.

Officers put evidence markers down and placed items in paper bags....


NEXT DAY UPDATEWoman killed in duck boat crash was ‘incredible person’

Also see:

Experts raise questions about duck boats’ blind spots

RMV says it sent duck boat company records of driver involved in fatal crash

After Seattle duck boat fatalities, regulators took tough steps

Fatal crash puts duck boats in the spotlight

Comparing Boston Duck Tours to Super Duck Tours