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Ride the Ducks Needs a Safety Review, Feds Say

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on August 31, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended that Philadelphia tourist attraction Ride the Ducks undergo a safety review. This comes after tug pilot Matt Devlin pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter after his tug boat steered a barge into the duck boat last summer, killing two tourists, reports the Claims Journal.

Ride the Ducks is a tourist attraction that has been operating since 2003. The ride lets tourists and patrons take an hour-long drive in the World War II-style amphibious duck boat around Philadelphia that ends in a 10-minute soak in the Delaware River.

The tourist attraction turned fatal last year. Two tourists were killed on the duck boat after a barge collided into the boat while it was disabled in the Delaware River, reports the Claims Journal.

Devlin, the tug pilot, was distracted by a family emergency after he found out that his son had been deprived of oxygen during a surgery, according to the Claims Journal. He switched off the radio so he could talk on the phone, and then moved to a different part of the tug boat to get more privacy so he could make calls and surf the web for medical information.

This caused the duck boat to get into a blind spot with the barge bearing down on them, the Claim Journal reports. With Devlin's radio turned off, the duck boat's distress calls went unheard. Devlin's tug boat steered the barge into the duck boat.

The crash sent all 37 people on board the duck boat into the river. Two Hungarian tourists aged 16 and 20, never surfaced. Their families have filed wrongful death suits, reports the Claims Journal.

The NTSB says that their findings indicated other flaws with the attraction's safety procedures. For example, the NTSB found that the duck boat master should have informed passengers to put on their life jackets earlier. And, they failed to inform the Coast Guard that their boat had been disabled, The Inquirer reports.

The NTSB's recommendation that Ride the Ducks go through a safety review is probably prudent. Matt Devlin's actions may have contributed to the tragic accident, but there's no telling if the deaths might have been prevented if more safety measures had been implemented on the duck boat itself.

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