“Ride the Ducks” Boat Didn’t Have Recommended Axle Repair; Dangerous Aurora Bridge Roadway Design May Have Contributed to Tragedy

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On September 24, 2015, four lives were lost and dozens more were severely injured after a “Ride the Ducks” amphibious landing craft vehicle t-boned a tour bus carrying international students heading in the opposite direction on the Aurora Bridge.  Witnesses reported that the front left tire completely detached as the “Duck boat” was changing lanes to the left, causing the massive World War II relic to swerve wildly to the left, plowing directly into and shredding the oncoming tour bus.

It now appears this terrible tragedy could have been avoided through simple maintenance and repairs.  The National Transportation Safety Board reported that Ride the Ducks International, the company that refurbished and sold the subject vehicle—Duck No. 6—in 2005, issued a warning to its customers in 2013 that repairs were needed on some of its vehicles to prevent the axle shaft from failing, including welding collars around the axle shaft.  Ride the Ducks of Seattle has not commented on whether it was aware of this warning, although it has been confirmed that Duck No. 6 did not have the recommended repair.

While Ride the Ducks is likely to face numerous lawsuits, governmental entities may also bear responsibility.  According to a 2003 study, WSDOT found that the Aurora Bridge was the third worst high accident corridor in the state.  For decades, the public has raised concerns about the dangerous design of the Aurora Bridge roadway.  In addition to demanding wider lanes, requests have been made to install a barrier between the northbound and southbound lanes to prevent head-on collisions.  At this time, it is unclear to what extent a barrier could have prevented, or at least decreased, the damage in this case.  But the danger was certainly foreseeable.

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