State suspends amphibious truck tour service after Seattle crash

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 28, 2015 4:20 PM

By Eric M. Johnson

SEATTLE (Reuters) - A Washington state commission suspended an amphibious truck tour service in Seattle on Monday while the agency investigates last week's crash with a charter bus carrying international students in which five people were killed, an official said.

The crash on Thursday between the Ride the Ducks International truck and the charter bus on Seattle's Aurora Bridge also sent about 50 people to hospitals, officials said.

The collision increased scrutiny on the duck boats, which carry tourists on historical tours and have been involved in a number of deadly crashes in recent years.

The vehicle involved in the collision did not receive recommended repairs to its axle, crash investigators said.

Atlanta-based Ride the Ducks International, which refurbishes the World War Two-era trucks, told its customers the housing around the axle was a potential failure point and recommended repairs and increased monitoring, National Transportation Safety Board member Earl Weener told a news conference on Sunday.

A day earlier, Weener said the left front axle of the amphibious vehicle was sheared off, but it was unclear how that occurred. Early indications suggest the axle was sheared off before the collision, another NTSB official said.

A possible fix would have been to weld collars around the shaft, Weener told reporters.

"This fix was not on this particular duck," Weener said, although he added it was unclear whether the Seattle franchise actually received the warning from Ride the Ducks International in 2013.

Washington's Utilities and Transportation Commission suspended all Ride the Ducks operations in the state, said spokeswoman Amanda Maxwell. The company had already suspended its tours.

The U.S. Army-surplus vehicle that crashed was built in 1945 and refurbished in 2005, Weener said, adding there were about 100 similar trucks in service nationwide.

Students killed in the crash were from Austria, Indonesia, Japan and China, North Seattle College said in a statement. A 20-year-old student, the fifth victim, died on Sunday, a hospital said.

The accident came nearly five months after an amphibious sightseeing vehicle fatally struck a woman on a Philadelphia street. In 2010, two tourists were killed when a tugboat pushed a barge into a similar vehicle, also in Philadelphia.

A spokeswoman for Ride the Ducks International declined to comment but said the company would release a statement later on Monday. A representative for Ride the Ducks of Seattle did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Peter Cooney)