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Duck Boat Drownings

November 06, 2018

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

Seventeen people were killed in a tragic drowning incident in Missouri when their “duck boat” was capsized in a sudden storm, as reported by CNN. The storm came on quickly, according to witnesses, and the boat was unable to get to shore in time, battling the waves and wind with its weak motor. DUKW vehicles (referred to as duck boats) were originally designed during World War II as transport vehicles for soldiers to quickly get through the beach break and onto land. These amphibious vehicles, which have wheels for driving on the street, are now used as tourist attractions in cities throughout the U.S.

Duck Boats: A History of Mayhem

Duck boats are notoriously dangerous, and have a long history of causing fatalities across the country, according to USA Today. From causing motor vehicle collisions on land, to engine problems, capsizing, and lack of life preservers on the water, duck boats do more than ruin a vacation; they are known to cause serious injuries and fatalities. In Philadelphia, two people drowned when their duck boat motor stalled on the Delaware River and a distracted tug boat operator crashed into them. A duck boat killed a woman on a scooter in Boston, and severed the arm off of a motorcyclist in Seattle.

Operator Negligence

The operator of Ride the Ducks, the tour company that operated the capsized boat in Missouri, is being sued for $100 million for ignoring a National Safety Board Council recommendation that duck boats should not have a canopy. If the canopy had been removed from the duck boat in Missouri, the passengers could have escaped instead of being trapped in the boat as it sank 40 feet to the bottom of the river. When disaster strikes and someone is injured or killed on or by a duck boat, an attorney needs to quickly conduct an investigation into potential operator negligence by asking the following questions:

  • Was the driver intoxicated, inexperienced, or distracted?
  • Was the design of the duck boat (such as the canopied one in Missouri) inherently unsafe?
  • Did the driver take the boat out in dangerous conditions?
  • While on land, did the boat violate traffic laws, such as fail to yield or signal, speed, run a stop sign, or hang over into another lane or bike lane?
  • Were safety measures put in place, such as having an accident protocol, driver CPR training, and life preservers?
  • Did the operator fail to properly maintain the duck boat, which then caused a crash (such as having bald or underinflated tires) or caused a problem on the water (such as a leak or faulty motor).

Our Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help

Duck boat accidents are more common than you may think, and serious disasters such as the tragic Missouri incident grab headlines, but countless people suffer injuries and drownings each year from these unsafe boats. If you were injured in a duck boat accident or any other boat tour accident, or a loved one was killed, call the Philadelphia law offices of van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim today at (215) 486-0123.



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