Ride the Ducks may resume limited tours in Seattle

Students in the North Seattle College International Program were involved in a fatal crash on the Aurora Bridge Thursday morning. (Photo via Seattle Fire Department Twitter.)
Students in the North Seattle College International Program were involved in a fatal crash on the Aurora Bridge Thursday morning. (Photo via Seattle Fire Department Twitter.)

Ride the Ducks, the company that operates an amphibious vehicle involved in a fatal crash that killed five North Seattle College International Students in September, will be allowed to resume limited operations, a state agency declared on Monday.

The state Utilities and Transportation Commission may resume operations on half of its amphibious fleet, which have passed vehicle safety inspections, the commission decided after a hearing in Olympia. The 10 vehicles allowed back on the road are not the same type as the one that was involved in the Sept. 24 crash on the Aurora Bridge.

However, the commission continued to prohibit Ride the Ducks from using the type of vehicle involved in the crash, according to a press release by the UTC. The company also must comply with conditions, including correcting specific violations and improving its safety rating. The complete list of conditions is available on the UTC website.

The UTC also found 442 violations of motor carrier safety rules or laws, which can carry up to $1,000 per violation. The UTC will determine how much the company will be penalized at a later date, according to the press release.

According to The Seattle Times, Ride the Ducks officials testified at Monday’s hearing, promising safety improvements, such as an additional tour operator on vehicles and cameras to give drivers a 365-degree view. The company also pledged to avoid the Aurora Bridge, but that is not a requirement of the lifting of the suspension, according to the UTC.

A Ride the Ducks amphibious vehicle, shaped like a boat with wheels, lost an axle and veered into a tour bus containing students in North Seattle’s International program. The crash cut into the side of the bus bus, injuring dozens and killing five. Injured students have since sued the company.

Mayor Ed Murray, who submitted a letter urging the UTC to continue the suspension of the company, issued a statement after the commission’s decision.

“I still have significant reservations about the safety of the Ducks operating on the streets of Seattle,” he said in the prepared statement. “As the UTC urged during today’s hearing, the City and Ride the Ducks continue to discuss potential routes and we are hopeful that we can reach an agreement before any Duck vehicles return to the roads.”

Murray’s statement added that city officials may consider additional regulations on the vehicles.

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