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. Wes

    These rigs aren't safe; 3 years ago, in Ketchikan, Alaska, a Duch boat ran over and killed a woman; the driver couldn't see under the bow of tis monster as it drove dodwn the dock. A front tire smashed the poor woman's head. That being said, it's no wonder this sort of thing hapens: tourism is is a dirty and dangerous industry. I've lived in Alaska all my 55 years; there is no limit to which the purveyers of tours go to make a buck. On Prince of Wales Island in southeast Alaska, there is hardly a bear to be seen; their once large numbers have been "sold off" by hunting lodges who act as though they own the bears, fish, birds etc. Shame on the tourist for destroying the quality of life for residents of our beautiful home!

    October 3, 2010 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jim Brieske

    Planes, trains and automobiles are all used to transport people to work, mail and freight. Anyone who compares a tourist carrying duck boat to them is not very intelligent.

    October 3, 2010 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
    • nelson

      Jim, they are all forms of transportation. I don't fly for business, I fly for pleasure. I don't get on a train because I'm going to work. It's to get me where I want to go for pleasure. Just like a Duck boat, they were having fun. The world moves forward, we can't live in fear. I am very sorry for the families who lost loved ones in this tragic accident but people can't stop their lives for what has taken place.

      October 3, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      You actually think people do not drive cars just to have fun, or use them to get somewhere to have fun? Few people drive cars only to get to work. What reality do you live in?

      October 4, 2010 at 8:29 am | Report abuse |
  3. Jim Brieske

    Oh and sure they were used during WWII to transport troops. But, if you haven't noticed, our military is no longer using the duck boat involved in these two deadly incidents.

    October 3, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Worldwalker

      So do we ban everything the military isn't using? We could start with black powder muskets and work our way up to battleships.

      October 3, 2010 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Kevin

    Let's ban walking as well. People trip and fall down and die all the time.

    Let's ban tugs and barges since they are the real cause of this accident.

    It it was a ferry, there would have been dozens of deaths. Let's ban ferrys

    October 3, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jim Brieske

    Finally let's talk numbers. During the first seven days of the landing at Normandy over 17,000 brave American soldiers were killed. Many were on duck boats. I'm writing this, so I will disregard the fact that the Germans struck them with very big shells. The Americans went for speed to shore not for weight causing exterior reinforced protection.
    Since I'm on killing, wars and cars were mentioned. You whining sniveling non Heaven believing democrats (therefore non God believing democrats, he created Heaven) complained about the deaths of our soldiers being high in Iraq. It was hogwash, garbage and pathetic behavoir used entirely to hopefully cause our country to lose the War in Iraq. There were over 4000 American soldiers killed in seven years of fighting. Last year alone over 5000 people were killed bcause of cellphone use while driving.
    I highly recommend this administration pull their heads out for a minute, get themselves a nerd and make it so cellphones don't work with the automobiles running.

    October 3, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • CTYank

      Time for meds?

      October 4, 2010 at 5:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      OMG, another "it's all Obama's fault" religious wacko who cannot stay on a topic without bringing political and religious ideology into it? Believe it or not, some things just have nothing to do with politics or religion. This is one of them.

      October 4, 2010 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
  6. Jim Brieske

    Kevin. You need to learn reading comprehension. I never said ban duck boats. I said, that duck boat tour company needs to be shut down longer.
    Their driver may have got two foreign tourists killed. Most likely he did, it's hard not to notice being dangerously close to a big ship. I don't care even if it was stopped and moved, he placed his boat full of tourists close to it.

    October 3, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Worldwalker

      The boat load of tourists wasn't anywhere near the barge until the barge approached the boat, ignored hails, ignored the radio, and either neglected or ignored posting a lookout to see what was in front of them. If it hadn't been a duck boat, it could have been anyone. Consider the I-40 bridge over the Arkansas River. 14 people died when it was hit by a barge, but I don't see anyone saying bridges should be banned.

      October 3, 2010 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Nice one, Worldwalker! Jim really has his panties all bunched up here.

      October 4, 2010 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
  7. nelson

    Right, and lets have all the airlines, trains, buses etc etc stop operations. The families who lost their loved ones have reason to grieve and be angry but the world goes forward.

    October 3, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  8. korwyn

    What is a small "boat" doing in a large shipping channel in the first place? It was bound to happen sooner or later.

    October 3, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jennifer C.

      Shipping channels are just deep parts of waterways that have the capacity to accommodate larger vessels and thus are where you will find them. Small boats use them all the time. Such accidents are rare. You're far more likely to be killed driving to the grocery store 2 miles from your home in your car. The real story in all of this is everyone should be more careful (in this case the larger vessel's operators were failing to act appropriately), and that lawyers want to keep it fresh in people's minds so they get press for their lawsuit. That's just part of the system we've created, and not likely to change any time soon.

      October 3, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joel

      The shipping channels are for everybody....This is like having a break down in a Honda in the slow lane on I-95 and getting creamed by an 18 wheeler because he wasn't looking what was in front of him...

      October 4, 2010 at 2:03 am | Report abuse |
  9. JJ

    People stop it. I realize it is a tragedy but com on, if you don't want to go on it don't go on it. But some people may want to go on it.

    October 3, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ksc

    The "Family" isn't the one coming up with this stuff, It's their ambulance chasing lawyer trying to keep the story in the minds of potential jurors. Of course, CNN and all the other media rush to fill up the 24 hr news cycle with these blatant attempts to sway public opinion by financially interested parties. The family was convinced to sue by Mr. Ronai "The Injury Lawyer" and he will do everything he can to make outrageous claims of how every thing associated with this case causes "pain and hurt" to the family in oder to make more money for himself. Just watch, when the settlement finally comes the "terms" will be kept secret...Because Mr. Ronai will get 80 – 90% of the judgment for his "fees" and the family will just get shafted again, but this time won't be permitted to talk about it.

    October 3, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jennifer C.

    People lash out when they are hurt or angry and reason doesn't come into it. Never mind that these tours have been proven safe overall for many years, and statistically speaking there is no significant risk. This could have occurred on any boat, and we certainly don't want to ban boating just because freak accidents do occasionally occur. The boats need to run and continue to bring joy to families and give them an opportunity to see and appreciate the natural world.

    October 3, 2010 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jeff

    so lets ban motor boats...and jet skis! Couple of people die every summer on those things! oh, and snow mobiles. and ice boats! and sail boats.

    not to mention the Staten Island ferry.

    Accidents do happen; this is not and never will be a risk-free world. But the odds of dying because of a duck boat accident seem to be very, very low.

    October 3, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Christopher

      Agreed. The chance of being killed in an accident with one of these boats is EXTREMELY low, much less than that with driving a freaking car from home to work on a daily basis.

      October 4, 2010 at 12:27 am | Report abuse |
  13. X

    The real problem is not the DUCK boat design. This could have happened to any boat. The problem was engine failure. They should just add a backup motor to get the boat to shore in case of failure. By law they have to stay within 100 yards from shore, so a small motor would be sufficient.

    October 3, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ituri

    This was a horrible accident, but its not a ban-worthy thing. They've been incredibly safe up till now, and they'll stay safe. It was a simple engine problem. You could even say the cargo ship that hit them was at fault for not responding to their MANY emergency hails. The tugboat pushing the cargo ship should have also been able to hear the hails and responded, but it didn't. I don't see why punishing what is a small business with bans and hatred will hellp anything, it won't stop another issue from happening with any other boat with engine problems.

    October 3, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Roland

    It didn't sink until it was run over. !!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 3, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
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