Duck Boats: Popular With Tourists, But With a Deadly History - NBC New York
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Duck Boats: Popular With Tourists, But With a Deadly History

The amphibious vehicles have been involved in fatal crashes on land and on sea



    Local Lawyers Call for Change After Duck Boat Incident

    Philadelphia lawyers call for change after 17 people died when a duck boat in Missouri sunk in choppy waters.

    (Published Friday, July 20, 2018)

    Duck boats are popular with tourists, but they've also been involved in dozens of deaths.

    At least 26 people have been killed in incidents involving duck boats over the last 20 years in the United States, including Thursday's deadly sinking in Missouri, "Today" reported.

    A lawyer who represented victims in a duck boat crash in Philadelphia in 2010 says the number of deaths is higher and that more than 40 people have died in duck boat accidents.

    The "boats" are amphibious vehicles made by modifying military trucks. The ones in use today were built for use in World War II and were named with the acronym DUKW, which led to the nickname "duck boats."

    Duck boats were used during the Normandy invasion on D-Day to bring troops ashore, and some were used again in Korea.

    In recent years some businesses have re-purposed those same, decades-old vehicles into sightseeing attractions that drive from land into rivers and lakes.

    The boats sit low in the water, with waves lapping just outside the boats' windows.

    In 1999, 13 people drowned while riding a duck boat in Hot Springs, Arkansas. That boat sank so quickly that no one aboard had time to put on a life jacket, the NTSB reported; its investigation found the boat had been inadequately maintained.

    In 2010, a trash barge collided with a duck boat on a busy part of the Delaware River in Philadelphia. The 37 people aboard were sent into the water; two people, tourists from Hungary, died.

    DRAMATIC PHOTOS: Duck Boat CrashDRAMATIC PHOTOS: Duck Boat Crash

    The company that ran the Philadelphia operations, Ride the Ducks International, stopped operating in Philly in 2016 after another fatal crash sent its insurance costs soaring. In May 2015, a duck boat struck and killed a visitor from Texas who was crossing a city street.

    The next year, in Boston, a woman was killed when she was hit by a duck boat while riding her scooter on Beacon Hill.

    Five college students were killed in 2015 when a duck boat crashed into a charter bus in Seattle. The victims were on the bus.

    The company that operated the Branson, Missouri, ride that sank in a storm Thursday issued a statement reiterating its focus on safety.

    "The safety of our guests and employees is our number one priority," the statement read. "Ride the Ducks will be closed for business while we support the investigation, and to allow time to grieve for the families and the community."

    But a lawyer who represented the Philadelphia water crash victims said Friday that's not good enough.

    The vehicles are "deathtraps operating on land and in the water," Robert Mongeluzzi said, reiterating his call for a national ban on duck boats.

    “After this tragedy, we again ask, What does it take for tour operators to realize that they cannot value profit more than human life and public safety?" Mongeluzzi said in a statement. 

    Video Shows Moments Before Duck Boat Sinks in Missouri StormVideo Shows Moments Before Duck Boat Sinks in Missouri Storm

    A woman on a nearby boat took video of two sightseeing duck boats struggling through a choppy lake in Branson, Missouri, Thursday. At least 11 people died when of the boats capsized and sank.

    (Published Friday, July 20, 2018)