PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The “Ride the Ducks” amphibious tour boats were cleared to return to the Delaware River for the first time since the fatal collision last summer that claimed the lives of two students.
The Ducks will return to the Delaware on Thursday, April 21st under an agreement announced on Tuesday among the Nutter Administration, the Coast Guard and the tour boat company.
City Managing Director Rich Negrin said the original 30-minute tour that traveled into shipping lanes is being drastically scaled back:
“The agreed-upon route is going to be two-thirds shorter, smaller, be only a ten-minute ride, and will only infringe upon the shipping lane a very short period of time.”
In addition to the shorter route, a lookout will be posted on the pier, and additional radio backups will be required on all of the Duck boats.
“We are comfortable with the Ducks returning to the river under those conditions,” says Negrin.
And Negrin said shortening both the duration and distance of the river tour won’t detract from the tourists’ enjoyment:
“The thing they enjoy is the splash, so the splash is still there. You get a great tour of Philadelphia. You get the splash into the river that’s not being taken away, and obviously the shorter route.”
A spokesman for Ride the Ducks, Bob Salmon, said the firm is not disappointed that the river route has been scaled back:
“Not at all. I think that we’ve got to learn how to operate in this new environment. And we’re ready and willing to do that.”
Another change has nothing to do with maritime safety: no longer will the tourists be quacking through the trip on the river and through city streets. Negrin said out of deference to residents in the historic district, passengers won’t be given the quackers until after their tour is over.
Todd Quinones reports…
Two Hungarian students were killed in the July 7th collision, and their families have since filed suit against Ride the Ducks and the tug boat operator.
An NTSB investigation of the accident is not yet complete. The NTSB’s preliminary report on the Duck Boat accident lays out a timeline of the events before and during the fatal collision on July Seventh.
According to the report, federal investigators have heard recordings of those moments made by the Burlington County Bridge Authority — recordings of several radio distress calls made by the Duck Boat operator to the tug boat that was pushing the barge. The report says the recording shows other operators also made distress calls. But according to federal investigators, no response from the tug boat to any of the calls can be heard on the recording.
Reported by KYW’s City Hall Bureau Chief Mike Dunn