SEATTLE (AP) - Calls had emerged for greater oversight and even an outright ban on popular duck boats that allow tourists to see cities by road and water before one of the military-style vehicles crashed into a charter bus in Seattle, killing four international students and injuring dozens of other people.
SEATTLE (AP) — Calls had emerged for greater oversight and even an outright ban on popular duck boats that allow tourists to see cities by road and water before one of the military-style vehicles crashed into a charter bus in Seattle, killing four international students and injuring dozens of other people.
Critics say the large amphibious vehicles are built for war, not for ferrying tourists. The tours here are complete with exuberant drivers who play loud music and quack through speakers.
"These are military craft that were never designed to navigate narrow city streets," said attorney Steve Bulzomi, who represented a motorcyclist who was run over and dragged by a duck boat that came up behind him at a stoplight in Seattle in 2011. "This is a business model that requires the driver to be a driver, tour guide and entertainer at the same time."
About 45 students and staff from North Seattle College were traveling Thursday to the city's iconic Pike Place Market and Safeco Field for orientation events when witnesses said the duck boat suddenly swerved into their oncoming charter bus.
Brad Volm of Philadelphia was driving in another vehicle and said the amphibious vehicle's left front tire appeared to lock up.
Authorities say it's too soon to determine what caused the crash that killed four students from Austria, China, Indonesia and Japan, authorities said. A National Transportation Safety Board team was to arrive Friday and lead the investigation.
The president of Ride the Ducks Seattle said his main concern was the families of the victims. Brian Tracey told The Associated Press that "we will get to the bottom" of the crash.
Tracey said 36 people were on the vehicle, whose driver had Coast Guard certification and a commercial driving license. All company drivers are required to take continuing education classes, he said.
"We take these issues very seriously," Tracey said.
Bulzomi said the latest incident should compel authorities to take action.
"I would hope everybody would take a serious look at whether this is a real good idea for the streets of Seattle," he said.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said Ride the Ducks Seattle had voluntarily sidelined its vehicles for the time being. The city's focus was on helping victims and investigating the crash, but duck-boat safety "will obviously be reviewed and evaluated in the days to come," Murray spokesman Viet Shelton said.
Keith Holloway, an NTSB spokesman, said the agency does not have national statistics for accidents involving duck boats.
The safety of the amphibious boats has been questioned before. They are remnants from when the U.S. Army deployed thousands of amphibious landing craft during World War II. Once the war was over, some were converted to sightseeing vehicles in U.S. cities.
Thirteen people died in 1999 when an amphibious boat sank to the bottom of Lake Hamilton in Arkansas in an accident the NTSB blamed on inadequate maintenance.
In July, the family of a woman struck and killed by an amphibious tourist boat in Philadelphia filed a wrongful-death lawsuit. Attorneys for Elizabeth Karnicki's family allege the May 8 accident was due in part to "huge blind spots" on the duck boats.
In 2010, a tugboat-guided barge plowed into a duck boat packed with tourists that had stalled in the Delaware River in Philadelphia. The crash sank the duck boat, and two Hungarian students died.
The tug operator was sentenced to a year in prison after acknowledging the accident was caused largely by his continuous use of a cellphone and laptop computer while he was steering the barge.
Bulzomi, the lawyer for the Seattle man struck by a duck boat in 2011, said he found two other recent cases in which duck boats had rear-ended vehicles at stoplights. In both cases, the drivers told police they couldn't see the other vehicle because of the height of the duck boats, he said.
The fatal accident happened Thursday as North Seattle College students were touring the city.
The collision on the Aurora Bridge, which carries one of the city's main north-south highways over picturesque Lake Union, left a tangled mess of twisted metal, shattered glass and blood, witnesses said.
Authorities say 51 people were taken to area hospitals, and 14 remained in intensive care at Seattle hospitals.
Students, faculty and staff of the diverse college of about 14,000 students gathered on campus Friday morning to grieve, spokeswoman Melissa Mixon said.
Associated Press writers Martha Bellisle, Lisa Baumann, Donna Blankinship and Manuel Valdes contributed to this report.