Saturday, September 26, 2015

Slow Saturday Special: Ducking This Post

ducked the first report.

"Critics contend duck boats are too dangerous for cities" by Phuong Le and Martha Bellisle Associated Press  September 26, 2015

SEATTLE — Even before a duck boat crashed into a charter bus in Seattle, killing four international students, calls had emerged for greater oversight and even an outright ban on the military-style vehicles that allow tourists to see cities by road and water.

Critics say the large amphibious vehicles are built for war, not for ferrying tourists. Some tours are complete with exuberant drivers who play loud music and quack through speakers.

‘‘These are military craft that were never designed to navigate narrow city streets,’’ said Steve Bulzomi, the attorney for a motorcyclist who was run over and dragged by a duck boat that came up behind him at a stoplight in Seattle in 2011. ‘‘This is a business model that requires the driver to be a driver, tour guide, and entertainer at the same time.’’

About 45 students and staff from North Seattle Community College were traveling Thursday to the iconic Pike Place Market and Safeco Field for orientation when the duck boat suddenly swerved into their oncoming bus, witnesses said.

Brad Volm of Philadelphia was driving in another car and said the amphibious vehicle’s left front tire seemed to lock up.

Authorities say it’s too soon to determine what caused the crash that killed four students from Austria, China, Indonesia, and Japan. A National Transportation Safety Board team was to arrive Friday.

The president of Ride the Ducks Seattle said his main concern was for the families. Brian Tracey said that ‘‘we will get to the bottom’’ of the crash.

Tracey said 36 people were on the vehicle, whose driver had Coast Guard certification and a commercial driving license. All company drivers are required to take continuing education classes, he said. ‘‘We take these issues very seriously.’’

Bulzomi said authorities should take action. ‘‘I would hope everybody would take a serious look at whether this is a real good idea for the streets of Seattle,’’ he said.

Mayor Ed Murray said Ride the Ducks Seattle has sidelined its vehicles for the time being.

He wasn’t sure whether the duck boats will be allowed to continue. But he said the safety board was interested in duck boat safety because other such vehicles are operating in other cities, including Boston.

‘‘We’ll study this incident in-depth,’’ Eric Weiss, a spokesman for the safety board, said. ‘‘Of course we look at things that will be of national significance, but we are investigating this accident.’’

The safety of the amphibious boats has been questioned. They were inspired by the thousands of amphibious landing craft launched by US forces during World War II. Once the war was over, some were converted to sightseeing vehicles.

Ah, the good old days we shan't see again.

Thirteen people died in 1999 when a duck boat sank to the bottom of Lake Hamilton in Arkansas in an accident blamed on inadequate maintenance.

In 2010, a tugboat-guided barge plowed into a duck boat packed with tourists that had stalled in the Delaware River near Philadelphia. The crash sank the duck boat, and two Hungarian students died. 

I know I have a post or two somewhere regarding that, but I'm ducking out on finding the links.

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 while he was steering.

In July, the family of a woman struck and killed by an amphibious tourist boat in Philadelphia filed a wrongful-death lawsuit. Attorneys for Elizabeth Karnicki’s family allege the May 8 accident was due in part to ‘‘huge blind spots’’ on the boats.

Bulzomi, the lawyer for the man struck in 2011, said he found two other recent cases in which duck boats rear-ended vehicles at stops. In both cases, the drivers couldn’t see the other vehicle because of the height of the duck boats, he said.


Time to fly south for the winter, and be careful of SEALS out there, too.

UPDATE: Washington halts duck boat operations