Seattle duck boat operator involved in deadly crash suspended
SEATTLE — There will be no rides on Ride the Ducks of Seattle anytime soon.
Washington state’s Utilities and Transportation Commission announced Monday that the company behind the amphibious tour vehicle that collided with a bus on a Seattle bridge last week can’t resume operations until the investigation into that crash is finished.
The suspension also won’t be over until “Ride the Ducks’ entire fleet of vehicles and drivers” is inspected, according to the agency.
Five people died and 50 more were injured when the Ride the Ducks vehicle crashed into the bus while crossing the six-lane Aurora bridge that connects downtown Seattle and the Fremont neighborhood. All of those killed were on the bus, which was carrying 45 new international students and school employees at North Seattle College on an outing to see sites in the city.
Days later, National Transportation and Safety Board spokesman Earl Weener said an axle repair recommended in 2013 was never made to an tour vehicle involved in the crash.
Weener said that “Ride the Ducks International, which refurbished the accident vehicle in 2005, notified its customers of a potential safety related concern in 2013. They recommended repair or increased monitoring by operators.”
It was not clear whether the Seattle franchise ever got the message, but the repairs were never made, the NTSB spokesman said. Nor was it clear when the axle broke and whether it was a factor in the crash.
Brian Tracey, who heads the company that operates the duck boat, said late Sunday that he was aware of the assessment. “We are still working to understand what happened,” he said.
Even before Monday, Ride the Ducks of Seattle vehicles had already stopped rolling. That’s because the company halted operations, on its own, on the heels of the deadly crash.
“Out of respect for the victims,” the company said on its website, “we have temporarily suspended operations, while we also focus on assisting those leading this investigation. The safety of our passengers and those we share the road with remains our highest priority.”
The Utilities and Transportation Commission’s decision is significant because it means an official agency is suspending Ride the Ducks of Seattle.
In addition, the commission signaled it will issue a formal complaint against the company Wednesday and hold a hearing the next day in Olympia, the state capital.
“Our action today is necessary,” UTC Chairman David Danner said, “to protect the public’s health, safety and welfare.”