The death toll in the Seattle crash of a Ride the Ducks vehicle rose to five yesterday when a 20-year-old woman succumbed to injuries she received when the tourist vessel veered into a charter bus.
The news of her death came shortly before a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board announced on Sunday that the Ride the Ducks vehicle did not receive a critical axle repair recommended by the company that refurbishes the amphibious vessels.
Ride the Ducks International, which rebuilt the DUKW vehicle in 2005, "notified its customers of a potential safety concern in 2013 and recommended repair or increased monitoring by operators," said Earl Weener, an NTSB spokesman. "This particular duck did not have the fix."
According to Weener, prior to the Seattle duck boat's collision with the charter bus, its front left axle was "sheared off, for what reason we don't know."
About 100 duck boats operate in the United States.
Calls to the Ride the Ducks operation in Philadelphia asking if the axles of amphibious vehicles operating in Center City received the recommended repair were not immediately returned.
In Philadelphia, duck boat accidents have claimed the lives of three people. Two Hungarian students drowned in 2010 when a tugboat-guided barge struck a stalled Ride the Ducks vessel on the Delaware River. The victims became trapped under the canopy of the capsized vehicle. In May, pedestrian Elizabeth Karnicki was killed when a Ride the Ducks vessel struck her as she crossed a street in Chinatown.
The families of the Hungarian students settled with Ride the Ducks and the owner of the barge for $15 million. Attorney Robert Mongeluzzi, who represented the families, has also filed suit on behalf of Karnicki's estate.
Mongeluzzi this morning repeated his call for a moratorium on duck boat operations.
"Seattle's accident has proven what we've said for years – they're dangerous on the land and dangerous on the sea," he said. "They were designed to invade countries from the water and not to carry and kill tourists."
The deaths in Seattle and Philadelphia are "squarely linked," Mongeluzzi said, because the duck boats in all three accidents were manufactured by Amphibious Vehicle Manufacturing, a subsidiary of Ride the Ducks International.
Since the sightseeing vessels are built on chassis manufactured in the 1940s, they are exempt from federal motor vehicle safety standards, Mongeluzzi said.
According to its website, Ride the Ducks in Seattle has temporarily suspended operations as it assists the NTSB in the investigation.