Duck boats are amphibious vessels that were once used by the US military in World War II. After the war, they were used by civilian law enforcement agencies and also converted to sightseeing vehicles in cities across the country. Over the last five years there have been several deadly duck boat accidents across the country, the most recent tragedy in Boston last week. A 29-year-old woman was killed after being struck by a duck boat as she was driving a motorized scooter. Her male passenger suffered non-life threatening injuries. According to police, both were wearing helmets. There were approximately 30 tourist on the duck boat at the time; none were injured.
Reports stated that the woman on the scooter and the tour bus were waiting at a red light to make a right turn. When the driver of the duck boat accelerated from a stop, he hit the scooter, which then became stuck underneath the duck boat. The cause of the crash is under investigation; police say may take weeks or months to received conclusive information.
In 2010, two Hungarian tourists were killed when a duck boat capsized on the Delaware River after a tugboat pushed a barge into it. In that incident, it was determined that the tugboat operator was on his cellphone dealing with a family emergency when the crash happened. The parents of the deceased victims received a combined $15 million from Ride the Ducks and the tugboat company, K-Sea Transportation Partners. Last May, a Ride the Ducks vehicle struck and killed a woman visiting Philadelphia as she was crossing the street. The victim was pulled under the vehicle. She suffered severe head and body trauma and was pronounced dead at the scene. Although the woman was apparently distracted, the duck boat driver said he did not see her. A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed by the victim’s family. Attorney Robert Mongeluzzi is also seeking “an immediate federal moratorium on duck boat tour operations nationwide.” In September of 2015, five international students died after a duck boat driver crashed into a bus on a Seattle road.
With each incident, calls have emerged for greater oversight and even an outright ban on the popular duck boats that allow tourists to see cities by land and water. Critics say these large amphibious vehicles were built for war, not for ferrying tourists. “They’re too wide. They take up an entire city lane. They have huge blind spots because of their bow. They’re dangerous on water because the canopies trap people,” said Mongeluzzi. “They were never designed to be driven on streets where you have pedestrian and cars. They were designed to invade countries from the seas.” Also questioned is the focus of the drivers. The tours are often complete with exuberant drivers who act as the tour guide and play loud music and quack through speakers. Critics say these distractions take the driver’s attention away from driving. Supporters, on the other hand, say the duck boats are iconic and a great for tourists. This latest incident is the first time a Boston duck boat has been in a fatal accident. Cindy Brown, CEO of the tour company, declined to comment.
Are federal regulators continuously ignoring an ongoing problem? With a renewed call on banning duck boats from land and water, what do you think? Have these tour boats become unsafe tourist traps?
Experienced attorney, lawsuit funding expert, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Legal Thriller Series. The series features super-trial lawyer Zachary Blake handling "ripped from the headlines" legal and political issues of the day. The series currently consists of Betrayal of Faith, Betrayal of Justice, Betrayal in Blue, Betrayal in Black, and Betrayal High, with a sixth Zachary Blake novel due out later this year. To learn more about these topical social justice legal thrillers. please visit markmbello.com. Mark is a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.