October 2nd, 2010
05:45 PM ET

Families of duck boat victims oppose resumption of service

The Ride the Ducks tour boat was carrying 35 passengers and two crew members in the collision.

The families of two young Hungarians who drowned in a duck boat accident in July said they opposed the tour company's decision to resume service in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania next year.

Ride The Ducks and the City of Philadelphia announced Friday that the amphibious boat tours will resume in March 2011 using the Schuylkill River for the water portion of the tour.

Two student tourists from Hungary, Dora Schwendtner, 16, and Szabolcs Prem, 20, died when a 250-foot sludge barge pushed by a tugboat overran a Ride the Ducks tour boat, plunging the amphibious vessel with its 35 passengers and two crew members under the surface of the Delaware River.

Boating accident brings tragic halt to summer exchange program

Regardless of the change in route, a lawyer for the victims' families said they disagreed with the decision. Citing safety concerns over the vessel's buoyancy raised by the National Transportation Safety Board in 2002, attorney Robert Mongeluzzi said the boats are inherently unsafe.

"We regret that lives will still be at risk because of their failure to heed the NTSB's recommendation from 2002," The Philadelphia attorney said in a statement on behalf of the families of the two students.

"The NTSB in 2002 concluded that the design of the Duck Boats were unsafe and could not be made safe unless they were made unsinkable or their canopies - which prevent passengers from escaping the vessel, especially when wearing a life jacket - were removed," he said. "Sadly, Ride the Ducks did neither."

The NTSB's 2002 recommendations came about in response to the only other documented fatal accident involving an amphibious vessel, in which 13 people drowned in Lake Hamilton near Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Read more about the NTSB's investigation of duck boat safety

The NTSB investigated the accident and recommended several changes to ducks' design and operation standards. In a September 2002 response, the Coast Guard said existing regulations and standards, if followed, were sufficient to ensure passenger safety.

Ride the Ducks also says the vessels have an excellent safety record. Since starting operations in Philadelphia in 2003 , Ride the Ducks has safely transported more than 1 million passengers on more than 42,000 tours in the Pennsylvania city, a company statement said.

The Hungarian victims were visiting the United States as part of a cultural exchange program to experience American culture during a three-week trip of hiking excursions, overnight retreats, home stays and tourist stops.

soundoff (96 Responses)
  1. MMS

    I like how they have determined that the duck boats are unsafe because they can sink, and until they are "unsinkable" they should be banned. I believe there has only been one ship in history that was ever deemed unsinkable, and we all know what happened with that one!

    October 4, 2010 at 5:30 am | Report abuse | Reply
  2. carloft

    either the idiot driving the decommitioned military amphibious vehicle wasnt paying attention and the other staff did nothing to help the situation or the idiot driving the barge was the most uneduccated in boating. both should be adressed

    October 4, 2010 at 7:59 am | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Chief

    Umm, they are not called Duck Boats because of ducks in MN, WI or anywhere else. They are called Duck Boats because all of the boats are retro-fitted DUKWs from WWII. The boats were nicknamed "ducks."

    Think before you post people.

    October 4, 2010 at 8:29 am | Report abuse | Reply
  4. tutuvabene

    Why don't shut down all tour boat companies because of the risk of sinking. Or, for that matter, all tour companies because there is a risk. Or, for that matter, all transportation because of the risk. Or, for that matter, breathing, because you could potentially breath in noxious fumes......

    October 4, 2010 at 8:42 am | Report abuse | Reply
  5. keith

    What this story fails to mention is that it was stopped in the middle of the river, in front of the oncoming barge, due to a mechanical fault. So because of a mechanical problem, you expect the tours to be stopped? Geeez I guess I should stop driving when I have a mechanical problem with my vehicle. Heck, anything that mankind has built can have a mechanical problem, so I guess then the world needs to stop operating. Your Hungarian clients flew a plane to and from Hungary, so I guess that if their plane had a mechanical fault, then that airline should cease flying. Geeez what a schiester lawyer, lookin for a buck from a tragedy

    October 4, 2010 at 9:15 am | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Ryan

    I live in Philadelphia and have taken the Duck tour a few times. So here are some things everyone should know:

    1) During the water part of the tour, the tour guide who drives around the city is replaced by an actual Coast Guard captain who operates the vehicle the entire time that it is in the river. So don't blame the operator.

    2) There are plenty of life vests on board but like most water tours, you dont have to wear them if you dont want to.

    3) The Delaware River accomodates all types of boat traffic, from large container ships and barges all the way down to jet-skis and wave runners.

    4) In many parts, the river tends to have strong currents and rapid flow, so even if they were strong swimmers and wore life vests, there is always a chance of drowning.

    5) Investigation concluded that tugboat pilot was at fault, although there would have been no way for tug and barge to stop quickly. Tour company stopped tours on their own accord to re-examine safety and procedures.

    6) Accidents happen. That's life.

    October 4, 2010 at 9:18 am | Report abuse | Reply
  7. padi176715

    It is amazing what people want changed when something tragic hits home. In AZ a family wanted children in boats to be required to wear helmets after a child was killed in a boat. This in a state where people on motorcycles do not need to wear helmets. Yes, people getting killed is tragic, but it is also a part of life. I wish people would put more support toward things that will save a lot of lives every year, like drunk driving or put more effort into medical research to help save more lives.

    October 4, 2010 at 10:20 am | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Garry

    Hot Springs Arkansas Duck Boat
    Tour Accident
    13 Dead
    1 May 1999
    I was on Lake Hamilton the day this accident happened. I watched as they pulled bodies from the lake and onto the seawall. Since then improvements have been made and life vests are readily available and easy to get to.
    Tragedy yes, but the service on Lake Hamilton was suspended until a review of all ducks was done. They still run daily and are always packed.
    My sympathies to the families of those who died. There were 12 who lost their lives this day in Hot Springs.

    October 4, 2010 at 10:24 am | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Mogdaork

    Well I live here in Philly and i have bad news this is not all or even mostly the duck boats fault

    October 4, 2010 at 10:46 am | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Al

    Better to shut down the ambulance chasers , lawyers,,,, not the duck boats. We all know who will make off with the money.

    October 4, 2010 at 11:01 am | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Tim L

    I have rode the ducks multiple times. I am a 280 lbs man. I can tell you this if you cant get out those big opening they call windows you have bigger issue. those side windows if you can call them that measure close to 3 ft wide by 3 feet tall. more than enough room to get out them if something happens. On question that hasnt been answered is 1 could they swim and 2 did they get there life jackets on. it isnt like they didnt have time to put them on those bardges dont move that fast 6 to 8 mph if your lucky. And what nobody seen that manmouth vessel coming at them.

    October 4, 2010 at 11:59 am | Report abuse | Reply
  12. MJD

    The accident was tragic but I, personally, am soooo sick of tourists telling us what we should and should not do! If things are run so badly in the U.S. don't come here!

    October 4, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Kevin

    It's tragic that people died in the accident, but nothing in this world is going to be perfectly safe. Tens of thousands of people die in motor vehicle accidents every year, but no one with any sense wants to ban cars.

    October 4, 2010 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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