Jul 122010

A Ride the Duck DUKW in Seattle, similar to the amphibious vessel which sank in the Delaware

From the US National Transportation Safety Board:

In its continuing investigation of a collision involving a barge and an amphibious passenger vessel, the National Transportation Safety Board has developed the following actual information:

On Wednesday July 7, 2010, about 2:36 pm, the 250-foot long empty sludge barge The Resource, which was being towed alongside by the 75.5 foot-long towing vessel M/V Caribbean Sea, collided with the anchored amphibious small passenger vessel the DUKW 34 in the Delaware River, near Philadelphia, PA. On board the DUKW 34 were 35 passengers and two crewmemers, and on board the Caribbean Sea were five crewmembers.

About 5 to 10 minutes before the accident, the DUKW 34 was northbound in the river and experienced a mechanical problem that led the master to anchor his vessel. At that time, the DUKW 34 was on its normal route about 150 feet from shore and within the Delaware River Channel (navigation channel).

The Caribbean Sea was also northbound in the Delaware River Channel traveling about 5 knots. The bow of the barge The Resource struck the stern of the DUKW 34, which resulted in the DUKW 34 sinking in about 55 feet of water. As a result of the accident, two passengers on the DUKW 34 were fatally injured and 10 passengers suffered minor injuries.

The crew of the DUKW 34, a master and a deckhand, were interviewed on July 9th. They told investigators that their radio calls to the Caribbean Sea received no response. The NTSB has also interviewed the operators of several vessels in the area at the time of the accident, and they stated that they recalled hearing the DUKW 34’s radio calls on channel 13.  Although not all radio channels are recorded, the NTSB is attempting to verify this information.

The crew of the Caribbean Sea consisted of a master, a mate, an engineer, and two deckhands.  Except for the mate and a deckhand who was asleep at the time of the accident, the NTSB interviewed the crew of the Caribbean Sea on July 10th.

When the NTSB sought to interview the mate, he exercised his Fifth Amendment right and refused to meet with investigators.

Investigators are continuing to examine and document the structural damage of both vessels and will attempt to determine the nature of the mechanical problem that affected the DUKW 34 before the accident. Investigators have collected photographs and video that may provide further information regarding the accident sequence and will be working to develop a chronology of events leading up to the accident. The Caribbean Sea’s GPS and electronic chart navigation devices were removed from the vessel and taken to NTSB Headquarters for analysis.

The NTSB is coordinating and working closely with the Coast Guard during this investigation.  The NTSB also acknowledges the continued support and cooperation of the other parties involved, including Ride the Ducks of Philadelphia and K-Sea Transportation.

The NTSB’s investigation continues.

MAC note: In 1999 a Ride The Ducks Amphibious Passenger Vehicle, Miss Majestic, sank in Lake Hamilton, near Hot Springs, Arkansas. 13 lives were lost. NTSB says that the probable cause of the uncontrolled flooding and sinking of the Miss Majestic was the failure of Land and Lakes Tours, Inc., to adequately repair and maintain the DUKW. Contributing to the sinking was a flaw in the design of DUKWs as converted for passenger service, that is, the lack of adequate reserve buoyancy1 that would have allowed the vehicle to remain afloat in a flooded condition. Contributing to the unsafe condition of the Miss Majestic was the lack of adequate oversight by the Coast Guard. Contributing to the high loss of life was a continuous canopy roof that entrapped passengers within the sinking vehicle.

On April 1, 2010, a duck boat in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania became disabled when a piece of debris on the Delaware River lodged in the rudder. The captain was able to use an auxiliary cable to steer the boat and continue the tour.

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