Revamped Emergency Procedures Could Help Reduce Tour Boat Injuries Involved in Waterway Accidents in New York

September 7, 2011
By Ronai & Ronai, LLP on September 7, 2011 10:51 PM |

Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) suggested that Ride the Ducks International go over its safety program to make sure their workers obey emergency procedures to prevent a repeat of last July's fatal crash on the Delaware River.

Duck boat accident lawyers and New York injury lawyers Peter Ronai and Holly Ostrov Ronai find it unacceptable for authorities to permit these boats to resume operations even though they are calling for a more thorough review.
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It is irresponsible for operations to resume until the case has been heard and all safety concerns addressed. A lawsuit is pending against the tug boat operator, the duck boat company and the City of Philadelphia.

Last month, the tug boat's first mate pleaded guilty to the maritime-law equivalent of manslaughter. He also agreed to have his Coast Guard issued mate license revoked. Sentencing will be November 1, when he will face between 37 and 46 months in prison.

Though he was remorseful, his actions lead to the deaths of Dora Schwendtner, 16, and Szabolcs Prem, 20, both were Hungarian tourists. He was distracted by a family emergency and it remains a mystery why the first mate did not ask crewmates to relieve him from his duties.

Not only was the first mate distracted by his cell phone, he left the upper deck of the tug boat to go to a lower level to use a laptop. Even worse, it was learned that he had turned down the volume on the tug boats radio so no one on the vessel heard the distress calls from the disabled duck boat.

As lawyers for the victims, we appreciate that the first mate is taking responsibility for his role in this tragic accident. We are appalled that K-Sea Transportation and Ride the Ducks aren't acknowledging their roles. A K-Sea representative says the company has apologized to the victims families. A Ride the Ducks spokesperson says the blame falls to the first mate of the tug boat for being distracted and not asking for relief from his duties.

Though the NTSB held the first mate of the tug "primarily responsible" for the accident, officials did not completely let the Ride the Ducks company off the hook. Their contribution to the crash was the missing surge-tank pressure cap.

Since a mechanic failed to replace the cap, this caused smoke to fill the boat, making the captain think there was a fire on board. This event made the captain shut off the engine stranding the duck boat in the shipping channel.

We frequently post on our New York Injury Lawyer Blawg about the dangers of distracted driving. Multi-tasking is a way of life these days, but using a cell phone while operating a vehicle -- and in this case guiding a large boat -- is a recipe for disaster. A second of distraction can lead to a lifetime of regret.

If you need to speak with a lawyer about a Duck Boat accident, or have suffered an injury in a New York distracted driving or boating accident, contact Ronai & Ronai, LLP for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case. Call 1-800-664-7111.

Additional Resources:

Federal officials recommend a safety review for Ride the Ducks, by Troy Graham, Inquirer.

Tugboat Pilot Admits to Misconduct in Philadelphia Duck Boat Accident Which Killed Two Young Tourists, New York Injury Lawyer Blawg, August 8, 2011.

Philly Duck Boat Accident cited as High-Profile Example of Operator Distraction, New York Injury Lawyer Blawg, July 5, 2011.