SHORTLY before the barge The Resource slammed into the Ride the Ducks tour boat last July, a teenage deckhand standing on the bow of the idle amphibious vehicle came to a horrifying realization.

"There's no way he's fitting between us and the pier," Kyle Burkhardt told the National Transportation Safety Board. "He was coming straight. Like he could not have lined up any better."

When the empty sludge barge was about 200 feet away, "that's when people start getting hysterical," Burkhardt, 18, said. He and Capt. Gary Fox told the 35 passengers, including 13 Hungarian tourists, to put on their life preservers.

"And I'm just s------- bricks. He's coming up and he was maybe 40, 50 feet off....And I'm screaming. I'm telling everybody get off the boat!" Burkhardt told the NTSB.

Shortly afterward, Burkhardt, son of a mariner, jumped into the water, leaving the captain and passengers behind.

His statement was included in the several thousand pages released yesterday by the NTSB regarding the July 7 accident, which killed two Hungarian students, Dora Schwendtner, 16, and Szabolcs Prem, 20.

Among the shocking revelations made public — or long suspected — and finally confirmed yesterday:

Matt Devlin, the mate operating the tugboat, was on his cell phone, apparently dealing with a family crisis, according to NTSB investigators. "His young son had experienced a life-threatening emergency during a medical procedure taking place that day and that he had become consumed with dealing with this family crisis," the factual review said.

Devlin was on the phone 21 times, including twice to check his voice mail, between 12:22 p.m. and 2:38 p.m., one minute after the barge hit DUKW 34. He was on a six-minute phone call with his mother at the time of the crash, K-Sea Transportation said yesterday.

"Here in Hungary, we're not even allowed to drive a car when using a cell phone," said Dora's father, Peter Schwendtner, according to attorney Peter Ronai. "How can someone drive a ship while being on their cell phone?"

Devlin didn't make the situation known to his fellow crew members or the Caribbean Sea's master. K-Sea Transportation, which owns the Caribbean Sea, said that Devlin would have been relieved if he had let someone know of the family emergency.

K-Sea yesterday banned the personal use of cell phones while on duty. "K-Sea continues to assist the NTSB, United States Coast Guard and other parties with the investigation, with the goal of preventing future tragedies and ensuring the safety of our waterways for all who use them," the company said in a statement.

One of the photos released by the NTSB clearly shows an empty upper wheelhouse, which is where the tug's operator would have a clear vision over the barge.

The incident occurred on the fourth hottest day of the year and there is no air conditioning in the upper wheelhouse, as there is in the lower wheelhouse, said Bob Mongeluzzi, an attorney for the victims' families.

"The first mate was traveling blind because he couldn't see from where he was operating the vessel," Mongeluzzi said. "He was deaf because he couldn't hear the emergency radio calls because he was talking on his telephone."

Devlin invoked his Fifth Amendment right during the NTSB investigation. His lawyer, Frank DeSimone, didn't return a call yesterday.

Ride the Ducks in Philadelphia had 22 equipment/propulsion failures on the Delaware River between 2003 and 2009, the NTSB said. There were eight breakdowns in 2009, the summer before last year's tragedy.

Chris Herschend, president of Ride the Ducks International, based in Norcross, Ga., said that reliving the incident yesterday "was a tough day for all of us."

"The key take away for me is the 13 minutes the mate is responsible for the barge spent on his cell phone prior to the time he ran us over," Herschend said.

City Managing Director Rich Negrin has been reviewing the NTSB findings as the city awaits a final proposal from Ride the Ducks to return to the Delaware River, said mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald. *

The Associated Press contributed to this report