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.
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.
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.