Duck boat crash kills two in Philadelphia

As reported by Hugh Patterson: Philadelphia – An amphibious duck boat loaded with 35 passengers and two crew members was struck by a barge Friday on the Delaware River outside of Philadelphia. Two passengers were killed as a result of the collision. The amphibious vehicle has been stopped because of possible engine trouble for five minutes before being struck. Just moments prior to the collision, crew members instructed passengers to put on their life vests. The body of 16 year old Dora Schwendtner was found by fishermen two miles downriver just before dawn the following day. The body of the second victim, 20 year old Szablcs Prem, was discovered later that day when the duck boat was retrieved from the river’s bottom. Both victims were from Hungary. Jeff Moran, a spokesman for the Philadelphia medical examiner’s office said the deaths were caused by accidental drowning. Ride the Duck boats are a major tourist attraction in cities with active water ways. San Francisco has a branch of the nationwide business that offers tours around the city’s waterfront. Amphibious vehicle tours are a multimillion dollar business. This is not the first accident to plague this popular tourist attraction. Many companies offer amphibious vehicle tours. According to the Northwest Arkansas Times, 12 people were killed in 1999 when a duck boat started taking on water causing passengers to panic in a scramble to reach life preservers. According to witnesses, the boat took on water and sank within 30 seconds.  Chris Herschend, president of the company whose boat was involved in Friday’s fatal crash stated that all Ride the Ducks vessels have been inspected and deemed safe. NTSB officials spent Friday interviewing crew members and passengers in an effort to understand the reasons for the crash. The crew members of the tugboat that was moving the barge when it collided with the duck boat were interviewed on Saturday.  According to Joseph Dady, president of the National Mariners Association, tugboats have blind spots when they are moving large barges. Dady is a former tugboat pilot himself. The duck boat’s captain, 58 year old Gary Fox had sent out a distress signal on channel 13 which is monitored by other boaters. He also blew his air horn when the barge came within 400 of the stranded duck boat but the horn, which had worked when tested that morning, failed to work. While Ride the Ducks have resumed tours in cities other that Philadelphia a question remains, are these boats Safe? The NTSB and Coast Guard will continue to investigate the accident. The question of why the barge collided with the duck boat will closely examined by authorities and determined at a later date.

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