Lessons from the fatal Duck Boat crash on the Delaware River

In just an instant last week, a pleasure cruise on the Delaware River turned into tragedy for a group of Hungarian tourists who were seeing the sights off the Philadelphia waterfront on a recreational “duck boat” tour.

The duck boat – half-boat, half-on-road-vehicle – had entered the river to take the tourists on a cruise but its engine began giving off a burning smell and was shut off, immobilizing the 30-foot-long watercraft, according to a report in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

While the duck boat sat in the water, unable to get moving under its own power while carrying 35 passengers and several crew members, radio messages were sent to seek help, according to the paper. A short time later, a tugboat pulling a city-owned barge came down the river and the barge ran over top the duck boat, spilling the passengers and crew into the water.

Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/twilightproductions

Investigations by police and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are continuing but last week’s crash, in which two young visitors from Hungary drowned, is another stark reminder of the need for safe operations and vigilance aboard all watercraft. The accident happened in broad daylight in perfect weather when the duck boat was run over by the barge, according to The Inquirer. Boating accidents shouldn’t happen in such conditions, but they can happen anytime.

Investigators will look at a myriad of facts and conditions surrounding the crash, including the mechanical problems of the duck boat, the operation and navigation of the barge, the use and availability of life jackets for passengers on board the duck boat, the conduct of the crews on both watercraft and many other details.

According to statistics tallied by the U.S. Coast Guard, there were 4,789 recreational boating accidents that involved 709 deaths in the U.S. in 2008 – the last year that full records are available.  More than two-thirds of those victims drowned and 90% of the victims were not wearing life jackets, according to the Coast Guard.

The duck boat crash can serve as a great example to remind us all of what to do if we are ever involved in a tragedy like this on the water.

Be sure to take photographs with a cell phone camera if you can to illustrate the accident scene. If photos are not possible, create simple drawings of the accident on paper and preserve them as personal evidence.

Don’t make any statements or sign any documents with insurance companies or anyone else after the incident to protect your rights.

If you are injured, be sure to seek medical attention so your injuries and pain and suffering can be fully documented.

And be sure to quickly call MyPhillyLawyer to go over your case to review your claims and legal standing in regard to any watercraft accident.

Accidents can happen anywhere, on the roads, on the water, in the air and on public or private property. Preserving your rights and claims is critical following an accident, so be sure to take steps to protect yourself.

When losing isn’t an option, remember to call MyPhillyLawyer.com.