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Woman struck and killed by a Ride the Ducks trolley in Chinatown

Elizabeth Karnicki, 68, of Beaumont, Texas was run over and killed by a Ride the Ducks vehicle as she walked through one of the city's busiest intersections at the height of Friday evening's rush hour.

Police investigating an accident in which a woman was struck by a duck boat near the Pennsylvania Convention Center on May 8, 2015. ( Jessie Fox / Philly.com )
Police investigating an accident in which a woman was struck by a duck boat near the Pennsylvania Convention Center on May 8, 2015. ( Jessie Fox / Philly.com )Read more

A tourist from Texas was run over and killed by a Ride the Ducks vehicle as she walked through one of the city's busiest intersections at the height of Friday evening's rush hour.

She was struck about 5:20 at 11th and Arch Streets, across from the Convention Center and down the block from the Reading Terminal Market. The woman, Elizabeth Karnicki, 68, of Beaumont, died at the scene.

Witnesses told police she was crossing southbound against the light. Her husband was several feet ahead.

"The husband heard her scream, turned around, and saw that his wife had been struck," said Chief Inspector Scott Small, who was in charge of the scene.

Small said he could not confirm reports that the woman had been on a cellphone. Witnesses said she appeared to have been distracted.

"She may have been looking down. She may not have been paying attention. That's not confirmed," he said.

Other officers said the operator of the vehicle told police he could not see the woman.

Ride the Ducks sightseeing vehicles are a cross between a boat and a bus, able to navigate in water and on land. The driver sits high and well behind the front, as in a boat.

Thomas Henry Massaro, a witness, said he heard a scream, then a thump, and saw the woman being pulled beneath the vehicle.

"It just went right over her," Massaro said. He said the vehicle appeared to be slowing down as it hit the woman.

Officers on traffic duty, Massaro said, rushed to the vehicle and slid underneath to try to free the woman. Massaro said he ran over, too, and offered to perform CPR.

"I was just praying the person's OK," he said.

But the officers emerged from beneath the vehicle and told him there was nothing he could do. The woman had suffered severe head and body trauma, and was pronounced dead at 5:27, police said.

The vehicle was carrying 28 passengers, some as young as 10, plus a tour guide and driver. Preliminary information indicated that the driver, 72, was not impaired and had a green light, Small said. He said the driver was unlikely to be charged.

Small said all of the passengers had been interviewed, along with eyewitnesses from the street. Footage from multiple surveillance cameras will be reviewed, Small said, but it appears to be "a tragic accident."

Ride the Ducks' vehicles tour the city's historical and Art Museum areas and points in between. The tour also includes a 20-minute cruise on the Delaware River.

Emily Myers, general manager of Ride the Ducks, was on the scene Friday evening but said that she had no information yet from the police.

"The thoughts and prayers of the entire Ride the Ducks organization are with the family and friends of the pedestrian involved in an accident that occurred this afternoon," the company said in a statement Friday night, adding that it would provide counseling for those affected by the accident.

In 2010, two tourists were killed on a Ride the Ducks craft after a tugboat pushed a barge into the boat. Dora Schwendtner, 16, and Szabolcs Prem, 20, had been visiting from Hungary. Ride the Ducks did not operate tours for eight months after the accident.

The parents of the victims received a combined $15 million from Ride the Ducks and the tugboat company, K-Sea Transportation Partners. The operator of the tugboat, who was on his cellphone dealing with a family emergency at the time of the crash, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to a year in prison.

The 18 passengers who survived the crash were awarded a total of $2 million from Ride the Ducks.

On Friday night, authorities prepared to take the vehicle involved in the accident to the police garage for a safety inspection, which is routine after a fatal incident, police said. The intersection was reopened around 7:30 p.m., and immediately was filled with pedestrians.

Maurice Williams, who had missed seeing the accident by a split-second, still seemed shell-shocked. The victim's husband, he said, was wearing a wristband for Comic Con, the huge convention that runs through Sunday at the Convention Center.

Williams had just left his engineering job at the Hilton across the street when he noticed the Ride the Ducks vehicle approaching.

"Next time I looked, it was like, 'Oh, my God,' " he said. "She was trapped under there. Oh, my God, oh, my God. I'm still saying 'Oh, my God' to you three hours later."

Inquirer staff writer Matt Gelb contributed to this article.

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