Deadly Distractions: The Ramming of DUKW 34
Previously, in the stretch duck 7 video, I alluded to the fact that Boston is utilizing old Army DUKWs, which is actually not true and totally on me, for not delving into that further. I've had the pleasure of being in direct contact with the Chief Engineering Officer at Boston Duck Tours, for the past couple weeks now to discuss this in more detail and before we get to today's incident, I'd like to clarify a few items on the Boston Fleet that really surprised me in how much attention to detail, innovation and safety measures they've implemented into their amphibious vessels. This isn't a paid segment and *not* an endorsement nor disapproval, but I'll be honest, it's refreshing to see this much attention to safety in this particular industry and differs greatly from the standard that the now defunct Ride the Ducks had kind of set inadvertently, due to being so popular and now so infamous. They do look similar to those used and modified by Ride the Ducks International, both in size and overall structure, but if you've been following the lore of how these vessels came about, the NTSB in duck 7's report, focused on 3 main categories of modified DUKWs, as these made up most of Branson's fleet. The "original ducks", not stretched or at least, not so heavily modified as to change their overall proportions. Still have been restored & modified within their footprint though.
Referred to as both "Fleet Ducks" or "Original Ducks". And at the opposite end of the NTSB's chart here, is the "Truck Duck". This vessel is built on the more modern 6x6 military truck known as the M35. The M35 was the successor to the old CCKW platform. The old DUKW being a derivative of the CCKW.
Built from the ground up though, specifically for tourism, according to my contact at Boston Duck Tours; "In 2006 we began the conversion of our fleet from WWII DUKWs (and 3 Stretch Ducks) to the Truck Duck. We retired our last WWII DUKW in 2014 and have a fleet of 28 Truck Ducks. The Truck Duck is similar to the “Master Jig Duck” shown in the NTSB chart in your video that showed the different hull forms. It was the successor to the Stretch Duck. While the Stretch Duck is a WWII DUKW under its skin, the Truck Duck is a completely new vehicle, based on the modified chassis of an M35.
The beam is wider, the buoyancy is far greater, the rear bilges are larger, the gunwale is much higher, the hull steel is thicker, etc. In our opinion it’s a much better and safer vehicle for tourism." Also noting; -The side curtain design has them attached (when in use) only by velcro, easily pushed away in an emergency -The front cattle pusher bar is an added safety feature for road going use -The vessel is surrounded by cameras for a full 360 view, especially crucial when navigating the on road portion -And most importantly, their unique roof design allows these separate panels to slide open above the passenger compartments in the stern and amidships. And the location Boston Duck Tours utilize for their water transit, the Charles River, is vastly different than where both the Branson ducks and Philly ducks were operating. We'll be learning alllll about how location played such a vital role in today's Duck 34 video and will touch on the Charles River in contrast at that time. So, keep In Mind; the Ride the Ducks brand is defunct.
The Guam duck tours still carry the name but are likely unaffiliated with the previous Ride the Ducks International, as it was known. Yes, "Ride the Ducks" was and in a way still is, synonomous with basically all duck tours... like kleenex brand for tissues, but "Ride the Ducks" was a specific brand and modern duck tours today have their own brand names... like "Branson Duck Tours", "Boston Duck Tours" and so on. This is in response to the overwhelming amount of comments telling me, there's "Ride the Ducks" still operating here, there's "Ride the Ducks" still operating there, when simply referring to amphibious tours that are still in business. Just because those are amphibious passenger tours, does not mean they are "Ride the Ducks" brand.
This is an unfortunate side effect of Ride the Ducks popularity and then infamy. So, I just wanna clarify that... So, as they say on the Youtubes; Let's Get Into It... In the Tragedy Aboard Stretch Duck 7, we saw just how normalized the neglect of safety, maintenance and modifications became, in the world of "Ride the Ducks" tour boats.
And while I did cover extensively, several incidents leading up to duck 7's case, I was this close to keeping the mention of Duck 34's incident in that video... but I just couldn't. As I read further into it, Ride the Ducks Philadelphia's maintenance issues take a back seat to the outright negligence in seafaring and maritime operation that day, especially aboard the tugboat caribbean sea. But to an extent, aboard duck 34 as well. As for the modified army duck tour boats, to summarize, for those who haven't seen the backstory (links will be in description for those who'd like to get caught up later); these vessels were purpose built for World War 2 amphibious operations and intended to have a lifespan of only a few months. Once world war 2 was over, they were quickly sold off as surplus, by the thousands.
And since they were already a handful to operate and maintain, even by those trained specifically in their use as military vehicles... it required that much more effort to keep them going in the civilian sector. Some received this treatment, many others, didn't. And unfortunately, even many of those that didn't, went on to be used as commercial passenger tour vessels. Another issue we can learn from, especially as a follow up to what we know already, about duck tours (if you've seen the previous videos); is to always keep an open mind and follow the facts. With everything we know, about all the safety issues Ride the Ducks amphibians had over the years, much of which due to negligence...
it would be easy to just put Duck 34's incident right in that same box, case closed. But as with anything I bring up, in regards to safety; it's important to do the proper diligence, before jumping to conclusions... Herschend Family Entertainment had been the sole owner of Ride the Ducks International since 2004; the Philadelphia location, one of six as of Summer 2010. Branson, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Stone Mountain Park, GA and Newport, KY.
The Ride the Ducks brand had been around since 1977, so, founded in 03, Philadelphia's operation was relatively new on the scene. As with other Ride the Ducks locations, they made use of the same vessels, modified to the same standards, as the rest of the company. Ride the Ducks International would modify the former World War II Army DUKW amphibious transports, to varying degrees.
All vessels would get their powerplants replaced and would add the generally similar canopies, rear boarding ladders and operator & passenger seating arrangements. But for various reasons, Ride the Ducks created different variations in how they'd "stretch" the ducks to allow for this increased passenger capactiy. Most commonly, they were lengthened to carry the additional passengers. And many were *not* otherwise built up or reinforced though, referred to as a "Stretch Duck". Others received more robust bows, additions to their width and gunwale height, allowing for more freeboard and it's thought, more reserve buoyancy... referred to as the "Master Jig" Duck.
The most glaring example of this difference being Duck 54's survival in the Branson incident. A Master Jig Duck, pushing through the exact same deadly conditions as Duck 7, a Strech Duck. Right alongside one another. Of the commercial Amphibious vessels in the US, as of November 2010; the U.S. Coast Guard
inspections show a large majority being World War 2 era Army DUKWs both stretched and not stretched. Duck 34, was of the Stretch Duck variety. While Tank Barges *appear* similar to the more common inland barges seen on US waterways, they're on average, much longer, wider and have a very high profile compared to their simpler open hull counterparts. Most inland bulk barges can be moved in groups on US rivers, of anywhere from 2 to 40 units at a time, pushed from the rear and referred to as a "Tow". While specialized barges with greater dimensions and mass require more specialized handling and often in single unit tows only.
Just the one barge and its tugboat. Purpose built for the City of Philadelphia Water Department by Trinity Marine Group - Nashville, in 1989... The Resource, a non-self propelled sludge tank barge was: 250 Feet in length 50 Feet Wide 2,100 Gross Tons It's freeboard, or height above the waterline, when loaded, about 7 and a half feet high at the bow and 4 and a half feet at the stern. But the empty freeboard was 20ft at the bow and 16 ft at the stern. Exceptionally high for a barge...
This vessel was 1 of 2 used by the city of Philadelphia to move wastewater sludge between their pollution control plant and a privately owned and operated, recycling facility. Moving these vessels, or "towing" them, from point to point is typically performed by harbor tugs with an upper wheelhouse perched much higher than that of the typical pusher tugs seen on inland waterways. The tank barge's height above the waterline, along with additional length and beam requires that much extra effort to see over and around while navigating. The Tugboat Caribbean Sea, built in 1961 by Equitable Shipyard of Madisonville, Louisiana, started its life as the CLinton C Cenac.
The vessel, purpose built for coastal ocean towing, was of twin screw, twin rudder design. Originally built with only the standard height, single wheelhouse. The tugboat would change hands many times throughout its life, quite common for these vessels. 79 feet long 24 feet wide And with a draft of 10 feet deep It was powered by Twin 1,200 Horsepower, Diesel Engines. The original height would be increased at some point throughout its life, when the upper wheelhouse was added to give operators a view roughly 35 feet above the waterline. The upper wheelhouse capable of independently controlling steering & throttles.
And while the small enclosure did have heaters for the cold season, it was not equipped with Air Conditioning like the main wheelhouse... foreshadowing for later in this video. The originally named, Clinton C Cenac changed names several times... In 1989 changed to The HD Campbell 1994 The Peter M 1998 The Vivian L Roehrig It's unclear exactly when this upper wheelhouse was added but I've noticed it's in place as early as the vessel's Vivian Roehrig Chapter. Then in '07 the Roehrig would be purchased by K-Sea Transportation Partnership of East Brunswick, New Jersey. Where it was renamed to Caribbean Sea.
When operating under K-Sea Transporation, the crew of 5 would consist of; The Ship's Captain, a Licensed Master One Licensed Mate Two Deckhands And One Licensed Engineer Each shift of 5 would live on the tugboat during its operations in and around the lower schuylkill "Skoo-kuhl" and delaware river areas. With crew changeover taking place every two weeks. While offices and ticketing were located in the Philadelphia Bourse building, the Ride the Ducks Philadelphia boarding location was more akin to that of a bus stop, where guests boarded and disembarked at 6th and Chestnut via the rear boarding ladders. Since this area of the city is so historic, the sightseeing drive, winding through the often narrow streets was quite extensive, about 35-40 mins long. Once the ducks reached Race Street, this led them straight to their dedicated launch ramp, reserved exclusively for Ride the Ducks. Splashing in on the North side of the Race Street pier, they would turn South once beyond the pier.
Required to remain within 1,000 feet from shore and no more than 300 yards away from each piers east end. They'd be in the ship channel but would be required to, according to the US Coast Guard... "stay well clear of the shipping lane traffic upon the Delaware River." Potential (pre-planned) points for either emergency egress or grounding were just south of the residential pier, inside the Penn's Landing Marina or just beyond it to the south.
At a point east of the Marina's opening, the ducks would turn around and head back north, exiting via the same dedicated ramp. The water tour no more than 30 minutes total. regardless of location. A licensed captain that would act as driver on land, pilot in the water, narrator, tour guide and of course, with no assistance, expected to be their own lookout throughout. The ducks by their nature, on-road, have several blindspots compared to that of typical passenger vehicles.
For example, the large bow and driver's position combined with more cockpit obstructions than that of a normal vehicle of this size, have led to multiple incidents in the past where vehicles, pedestrians or motorcyclists have been struck, rear-ended, dragged, even killed... due in large part to lack of visibility while travelling through busy streets. And in the water, they are quite vulnerable due to their slow speed and relatively low amount of maneuverability along with additional stability needs requiring operation in only the calmest of waters, the modified original Ducks have minimal freeboard when loaded and so on... a lot to manage, exacerbated in demanding locations.
But contrary to some of the Ride the Ducks locations and I believe which may have helped set a precedent for some of their other locations going forward, the Philadelphia ducks were operating in a much busier water environment; the Delaware River in the vicinity of Penn's Landing. The US Coast Guard, aware of this, and the duck's capabilities limited to calm, protected waters... issued a mandate in 2004 to Ride the Ducks Philadelphia, their 2nd year of operation, requiring them to add a second crewmember to all tours so that one crewmember would always be free during the water transit to act as lookout.
Referred to in the maritime world, as a deckhand. The Coast Guard was also much more active in the Delaware River area than say inland waters like Table Rock Lake in Branson, so operations like these were on their radar constantly. Ride the Ducks corporate of course fought this tooth and nail, penning a long winded appeal. In their rejection letter, responding to the company's appeal, the Coast Guard stating; "We make this decision based on a number of safety issues that are unique to operating on the Delaware River in the vicinity of Penn’s Landing.
Compared to the relatively benign operating environments of your other Ducks (ie. lakes and protected harbors with little or no commercial traffic) the Philadelphia operation involves a more hazardous environment, which presents added safety risks. The operating route is within close proximity of the shipping channel, where deep draft and towing vessels traverse on a regular basis, creating a heightened risk of collision or swamping -by your own admission, your operators must be careful to maneuver the vessel to minimize wake impact.
Furthermore, with a maximum speed of perhaps 7 knots, the Ducks have only limited maneuverability, which is further exacerbated by river currents upwards of 4 knots. Finally, we’re aware of at least 2 incidents last summer where debris caused damage to propellers, rudders, struts and/or shafts - the amount of debris in the river poses an additional risk liability. When taken in combination, these risk factors lead us to conclude that your Philadelphia Duck operations require the addition of a deckhand."
The Coast Guard would go on to say... "Beyond the elevated risks associated with the vessel route, we consider having 38 passengers an unwieldy number for one person to manage, particularly in the event of an emergency. ...Typically, small passenger vessel operations require employment of one or more deckhands in addition to the licensed master, regardless of passenger capacity, vessel design, or route. Requests to drop the deckhand are considered on an individual basis; however, upon review of the entire fleet of small passenger vessels inspected in the OCMI Philadelphia zone, the most passengers allowed for a single-pilot operation is 14.
...The master’s primary focus needs to be on safe navigation of the vessel - crowd control issues must not interfere with this duty. In the event of an emergency, the deckhand is available to assist with passenger control and emergency procedures, including handing out lifejackets, relaying safety instructions, and keeping general order. Coupled with the added risk factors explained before, we consider the addition of a deckhand essential to safe operation of the Philadelphia Ducks." Also, in what appears to follow the pattern of DUKWs modified by Ride the Ducks and their subsidiaries, the Philadelphia Fleet was all too familiar with constant breakdowns and maintenance issues; June 2005; Duck 22 suffered a propulsion failure with passengers on board, when it struck a submerged object in the Delaware River causing the propellor shaft yoke to break.
The Coast Guard noting that neither the vessel nor the company notified authorities as the duck sat without propulsion on the Delaware. Fortunately with no injuries, the vessel was likely towed to safety by a fellow duck eventually. August 2005; Duck 46 suffered engine failure on the Delaware near the Ben Franklin bridge. Luckily no injuries were reported but the Coast Guard noted 36 passengers total being aboard at the time. May 2006; Duck 22 again experiences loss of propulsion while underway on the Delaware with 36 passengers on board. This time due to engine failure when a radiator hose dislodged causing the engine to overheat and shutdown.
After sitting anchored, the vessel would be towed to safety and fortunately, no injuries were reported. May 2007; Duck 24 reports loss of main steering system while underway on the Delaware with passengers aboard. Fortunately a manual, back up control system was employed and the vessel was able to make it back to the exit under it's own power. July 2009; Duck 25 experienced loss of propulsion while underway on the Delaware with passengers aboard.
Tied up to a pier near the Ben Franklin bridge, they would end up being towed to safety by Duck 34. A portion of the propellor drive had sheared off while underway. Again, authorities were not notified and it's suspected Ride the Ducks was attempting to resolve the situation without intervention.
When the Coast Guard did intervene, and inspected each vessel, Duck 25 and 34 were found to have both been operating beyond the expiration dates of their Certificates of Inspection. At a depth of 40+ ft, The Delaware River ship channel is navigable by oceangoing, deep-draft vessels... of many types. Even just taking a quick look... right near Penn's Landing itself, there are vessels berthed in and transiting the area, hulking in size, especially when compared to the average 33 ft Amphibious Duck. Not all barges of sizes similar to The Resource, are built and transported in the same fashion, even amongst those operated by K-Sea. Many are designed with what's called a "push notch" at the stern of the vessel...
A standard Tugboat, even one like the Caribbean Sea, utilizing a deep enough notch with Integrated Tugboat or ITB connections... can latch on, creating a single integrated tub-barge unit. The ITB can operate in sea and weather conditions where conventional barges can't. When these barges are the same size as the resource, they still require the added upper pilothouse, due to their high freeboard, but tend to be more workable, especially on longer journeys. The Resource and The Recycler, however, were 2 tank barges built specifically to only venture between the Northeast Water Pollution Control Plant on the Delaware River & the Biosolids Recycling Center on the Schuykill River for the city of Philadelphia. A relatively short haul at about 11.7 Nautical miles, not requiring open ocean transit, the
water control plant loaded them regularly, with wastewater sludge, which was offloaded at Biosolids for processing. With only a shallow stern indentation, rather than a full ITB notch, short distance between docks and frequency of moves, it meant these two were often pushed in a "hip-tow" configuration instead. On Wednesday July 7th, K-Sea Transportation was carrying out their contract for the City of Philadelphia to move The Resource and Recycler from their berth at Biosolids, back to the Water Pollution Control Plant for reloading. Since they were empty, this meant their freeboard would be at its maximum height, 20 ft above the waterline at the bow. The tugboat Caribbean Sea was tied at the hip of the barge's port side with the tugboat's starboard side pushed against it.
While less favorable than the position of an ITB tow, this still allows for control over the vessel in all directions. Duck 34 would complete two tours on Wednesday July 7th with no incident. Returning from the second by 1:15 pm. Boarding took place around 1:30 for Duck 34's 3rd tour that day. In addition to the master, was a total of 35 passengers; which included a group of 13 Hungarian Students and their 2 teachers...
all with varying levels of english comprehension. They were accompanied by their 7 local American hosts amongst the other guests aboard. In interviews afterwards, a handful of passengers noting that safety briefings were given via voice only for the most part, far less demonstration and gesture based compared to say airline briefings. The passengers ranged from 8 to 72 years old. Duck 44, boarded 32 passengers and got underway, soon after number 34 departed.
Reaching the duck ramp, the routine was to pick up the deckhand, just prior to entering the water. Both the captain and deckhand were licensed to operate the vessel during the water transit. Alternating duties of; narration (engaging with the guests), acting as lookout and water piloting according to their company policies. Duck 34 would splash in at about 2:15pm, the master making a routine callout on channel 13, alerting local marine traffic to their presence. He would soon switch to the jump seat to act as tour guide and lookout while the deckhand Of the 5 crew on board the Tugboat Caribbean Sea, the master and deckhand no.
1, were scheduled to be off duty and in their bunks while the Mate (2nd ranking Officer on board), Deckhand 2 and the engineer remained on duty for the trip north. Prior to getting underway, the master had made clear to the mate; -His expectations of preferred positioning, against the side of the barge. -Along with his expectations for the mate to use the upper wheelhouse for their transit northbound, due to the barge's high freeboard while empty and near zero visibilty forward of the vessel, from the main wheelhouse.
"No problem. You don't have to worry, that's normal. That's where I would be."
the mate responded. The master and deckhand no. 1, around this time, would retire to their quarters for lunch and rest. Important to note though, the NTSB points out; that there was no written company policy with K-Sea at the time, requiring which wheelhouse to navigate from, when the sludge barges were empty. And that the master did not note these directions into his standing orders for the vessel either, it was later confirmed to have been made and acknowledged verbally only... Held fast in a Starboard Hip Tow, to The Resource's port side, the mate got the tow underway roughly one hour prior to Duck 34 splashing in; 1:15pm.
The Biosolids facility had recently finished unloading the barge and they were in route, back to the Northeast Water Pollution Control Plant. They'd make their way north in the river channel at a speed of about 6 knots. The high temperature that day, a miserable 103 degrees fahrenheit, 40 celsius, setting records as one of the hottest days in Philadelphia history.
Duck 34 had completed their turn around and was proceeding northward, back toward the exit ramp, Duck 44 behind and starboard by about 150 ft. At 2:25pm, with the deckhand at the helm, the captain, sitting in the jump seat, noticed what appeared to be smoke from the engine's starboard compartment vent. The deckhand and captain would switch positions. Once in the jumpseat, the deckhand requested the nearest 4 passengers in the first row of seats step back to avoid the smoke. The captain took fire mitigation actions, closing both port and starboard engine vents, securing the ignition switch, activating the emergency fuel shutoff and closing the forward hatch.
The captain would stop short though of activating the fire suppression CO2 system, as he was not 100% sure whether it was smoke, or just steam and also didn't want the CO2 accumulating amongst the passengers. In interviews with authorities, the captain stated he immediately put a call out on VHF Channel 13 to all vessels in the vicinity. However, the NTSB finds no record of this call.
Regardless, Duck 44 was within sight and upon seeing 34's issues, maneuvered within hailing distance to offer assistance. Duck 34's crew let them know "everything's good" and that the problem had been radioed in to the Ride the Duck's office. "Finish the tour - Everything's all right." the deckhand told duck 44's master. Duck 44 was also not fitted with the necessary equipment to perform a safe tow anyway. A manager from the offices, using the direct-connect radio, informed the ducks that number 46 was being dispatched separately to tow Duck 34.
By this point, duck 34 had already drifted a bit, so roughly 3 minutes after they'd shut down propulsion, the captain ordered the deckhand to go forward and drop the anchor. The anchor took about 4 minutes to set, dragging along the bottom about 155 feet before catching, anchoring the vessel close to the center of the navigation channel by about 2:33 PM. Onboard the tugboat, the engineer had gone below decks to perform his underway maintenance duties. Having seen the upper wheelhouse occupied, confident the mate had lookout duty in hand, deckhand no.
2 would also go about his daily duties in other parts of the vessel. However, once underway, the mate immediately started placing numerous calls on his personal cell. Roughly 8 miles into the journey and nearing Penn's Landing, 18 calls on the mate's cell, both incoming and outgoing, had been made... of varying lengths totalling about 53 minutes. Which investigators would later discover and confirm, were due to the mate dealing with a legitimate, serious family medical emergency.
As The Resource and Caribbean Sea passed by Penn's Landing, the area on shore happened to bustling with tourists and locals... the following pictures can be seen where the upper wheelhouse is clearly not occupied. The space is small enough such that a crewmember present, in these lighting conditions, would very clearly be visible through these windows. Instead, on the phone, not in the upper wheelhouse, and having *not* requested deckhand no. 2 relieve his position as lookout.
The mate was currently on a call that initiated at 2:32 pm as they passed in front of Penn's Landing... Just prior to this, Duck 34's crew first noticed the barge and caribbean sea at roughly 1 nautical mile of separation. Also claiming in a later interview to have placed another call out on VHF channel 13 to alert local marine traffic of their situation...
however, authorities were unable to verify this call as well. The distance though and perspective they had on the barge at the time, gave them the impression it was taking maneuvers to avoid them. After the initial sighting, was around the time the deckhand was ordered to go out on the bow and drop anchor.
As the distance between the vessels closed and the anchor stopped their drift, the deckhand remained out on the bow, assumed to be sharing lookout duty by the captain... but hadn't been specifically ordered to do so. After all, standing atop the bow would allow for a much clearer view of a duck boat's surroundings. Instead, the deckhand would take out his cell phone and begin texting back and forth with a friend... In the meantime... the captain had finished manually sealing up additional engine compartment vents typically used for heat dissipation.
They were still allowing a bit of vapor to enter the passenger compartment so he took the time to seal it off while they waited. With the vapors clear, the captain then had the 4 passengers originally from the front, return to their seats. It was around this same time he looked up to see that the tow had actually *NOT* changed course and was bearing down on their vessel. With the bow of The Resource 2 minutes away, the captain began making calls out directly addressing the Caribbean Sea on channel 13, to no avail... these calls *are* on record and confirmed by authorities.
The passenger ferry freedom, within sight of both vessels, also attempted to call out immediately after duck 34's attempt and then switched to channel 16 to notify the coast guard. Some, but not all passengers recalled hearing the captain give instructions to don life jackets. And in an interview with one of the survivors... "One of the ladies... from our church got up, and she yelled; We‘ve got to move. And she started pulling down the life vests, and people started screaming, and other people were getting up and pulling life vests down, and that's right before the barge hit."
Fortunately many passengers followed the example of others, although unable to fasten the life vests properly in such a short amount of time, they did have them in hand or at least freed them from their placements in the canopy. The deckhand leapt from the bow of the duck with no life jacket. In this configuration though, and with what authorities felt was lacking instructions overall on emergency egress along with an exceedlingly delayed call for action by the captain, if any... no one but the deckhand escaped the vessel prior to impact. The barge struck the passenger vessel at 2:37 pm. Impacting on its stern and slightly to port.
In a process that took about 10 seconds, the duck was rolled over onto its starboard side and pushed completely under water. The vessel would never re-surface, sinking immediately in water roughly 55 feet deep. According to the NTSB, most passengers could not recollect just how they'd evacuated and made it back to the surface. Many recounting that one moment they were underwater, the next back on the surface. Some said they remembered seeing sunlight eventually peeking through the water and swam towards it. For those who'd lost track of their life jackets, fortunately there were many scattered about on the surface near where the victims popped up, most found flotation nearby quickly.
The ferry freedom was on its normal "River Link" route at this time back and forth from Camden to Penn's Landing and made their best possible speed toward the accident site. Upon arrival they began assisting survivors and were quickly followed by 2 marine police boats, 3 coast guard rescue boats and a Navy Team on a Zodiac... all of which on scene within just a few minutes. Many passengers were helped out of the water onto the boats, while others made it to shore and were helped by multiple first responders and samaritans on scene as well. It probably goes without saying but no one was injured onboard the Tugboat Caribbean Sea. In total; 26 Duck boat passengers suffered minor injuires according to the NTSB.
And after exhaustive searches, 2 Victims were never recovered on the day of the incident... A 20 year old and 16 year old, seated together in the 2nd row on the starboard side; both from the group of Hungarian visitors. The Coast Guard and Police searched tirelessly since the time of the incident, everyone hopeful they'd somehow survived. According to ABC Philadelphia and NPR; The first victim was finally found, and their body recovered around 4:45am Friday July 9, 2 days later... just south of the Walt Whitman bridge. The second victim recovered during the process of raising the sunken duck boat about 3:00pm that afternoon.
Onboard the tugboat, as the barge drove the passenger vessel underwater, the deckhand and engineer were sitting at a crew table on the port side of the galley. They felt a sudden reduction in the two engines' RPMs and assumed they'd arrived at their destination. Looking out the porthole though, the deckhand saw what looked like people in the water off their port side.
The 2 went to the main deck where they saw struggling victims and debris passing by their vessel to port and stern, pushed by the river current. The engineer rushed to the master's stateroom to alert him. Approaching in the passageway, he saw the stateroom door already open and the mate standing in the doorway... he heard no conversation taking place and witnessed an expression on the mate that appeared to be "disbelief, like is this really happening?" The mate had knocked on the master's door to wake him up and told him... "I ran over a duck boat".
The master threw on what clothes he found quickly and rushed to the upper wheelhouse, taking over the vessel. They'd passed up river far enough that they could not assist with victims in the water and the ferry freedom had already made call outs to the Coast Guard on channel 16. The master swung the tow to starboard and attempted to hold their position, just upriver from the scene.
After initial rescue and sweeps of the scene were complete, the Coast Guard units from Sector Delaware boarded the Caribbean Sea. Two Coast Guard investigators interviewed the mate in the galley at about 3:44pm. At first, he'd informed investigators that he was in the upper wheelhouse at the time of the collision but had not seen the Duck prior. He also stated he did not hear any radio calls or see any targets on the tugboat's radar.
The NTSB was also unable to verify any calls being made from the Caribbean Sea to any ducks in the area. Later in the evening, K-Sea Transportation provided the mate an attorney and the mate would invoke his right to the Fifth Amendment refusing further interviews to any investigators, including the NTSB. At the mate's request, K-Sea Transportation did provide the NTSB with a follow up statement... The mate had informed them his young son experienced a life-threatening emergency during what was to be a relatively routine medical procedure that day. "He had become consumed with dealing with this family crisis." He had also made no other crew members, including the master aware that day that any of this was going on.
Strangely, investigators also found the mate made the following entries in the Tugboat's log; "1:15; Underway w/ Barge The Resource from SW Sludge Dock" but then... "2:30; Made Rounds - Engine Room & Security, All Secure @ NE Sludge Dock w/The Resource." The tow of course never having arrived at the Northeast Sludge Dock during the expected timeframe, let alone by 2:30.
According to investigators; FBI forensics of the company issued laptop, the one kept in the main wheelshouse, also revealed web searches starting around 2pm and 2:20pm along with subsequent following of those searches' results. Ride the Ducks Philadelphia suspended all tours immediately following this incident and kept operations suspended, for the remainder of the 2010 season. With the Coast Guard and NTSB present, the duck boat was raised on July 9th. The NTSB taking possession immediately thereafter. The canopy framing still intact along with findings under the hood that caused the steam and subsequent lack of propulsion... which we will cover shortly.
Although, the NTSB found *no* issues in either vessel's crew with; Qualifications of Crewmembers Fatigue Or Drugs and Alcohol Use And regarding the Tugboat's potential to avoid the collision; No issues were found with; Weather and River Conditions Waterway Configurations Along with no issues in mechanical, electronic and communications functions of the Caribbean Sea itself. Findings of primary cause by the NTSB *did* include; "The mate of the Caribbean Sea failing to maintain an appropriate lookout, including monitoring the radios, while navigating the vessel because he was distracted by personal use of his cell phone and the company laptop in dealing with a serious family medical emergency. Contrary to the master's instructions and contrary to his own postaccident statements, the mate of the Caribbean Sea was not navigating the vessel from the upper wheelhouse at the time of the collision. The mate of the Caribbean Sea should have been aware of his employer‘s prohibition of personal use of cell phones and company-provided computers while on watch, but on the day of the accident, he did not follow the policy. Had the mate of the Caribbean Sea informed the master or management at K-Sea Transportation of the serious family medical emergency, he would likely have been granted relief from the watch."
Secondary and contributing to the incident, according to the NTSB; "The DUKW 34 surge tank pressure cap was not in place at the time of the accident, and the missing pressure cap allowed the engine coolant to boil and create steam that entered the passenger compartment and prompted the master to shut down the engine because he believed he had an onboard fire. The mechanics who performed post-trip inspections of DUKW 34 failed to ensure that the surge tank pressure cap was securely in place before allowing the vehicle to enter passenger service. DUKW 34 master did not fully appreciate or appropriately respond to the risk of a collision that faced DUKW 34 and its occupants once he had shut down the vessel‘s engine and anchored in the navigable channel. DUKW 34 deckhand‘s personal use of his cell phone to send text messages while he was on the bow of the vessel distracted him from effectively performing his duty as a lookout." After a series of trials and then pleading guilty in autumn of 2011 to one count of misconduct of a ship, causing passenger death... The mate of the Caribbean Sea admitted he was distracted by his cell phone and the laptop for an extended period of time prior to the collision.
Admitting to piloting from the main wheelhouse and not monitoring the marine radio frequencies during that time. That he intentionally lowered the volume to where it was inaudible so that he could concentrate and better hear his phone conversations, along with remaining in the main wheelhouse as it was air conditioned, quieter and feeling panicked & nauseated, allowed him to concentrate better... tending to his family emergency. As 2011 approached, for their part Ride the Ducks Philadelphia did attempt to create a new route on the Schuykill River, which I'm assuming would have been upriver from the Weir, as barge traffic stops at that point... on a peaceful portion of water, nearby the
Schuykill River Trail. It's reported though, by several local news outlets and Ride the Ducks themselves; the city of Philadelphia did not approve this request and when 2011's warm season approached, the ducks resumed operations on the Delaware but reportedly kept a rescue boat ready nearby and shortened the water transit overall. From the Phillyducks Facebook Page Posted on October 6, 2016 "As of October 5, 2016, Ride The Ducks Philadelphia has suspended operations indefinitely. As the nation’s largest amphibious tour operator and licensor, our mission is “serving through sightseeing”; we offer guests an experience that is fun, informative and engaging so that we can serve our employees and communities. Due to circumstances outside of our control including a 330% increase in our insurance premiums, continued operations in Philadelphia are not financially feasible at this time.
We enjoyed serving the people of Philadelphia since 2003, serving over one million guests during that time. We are working with the 42 full and part-time employees from our Philadelphia location offering severance and outplacement assistance." "We regret having to close our operation... and we send good wishes and brotherly love
to the people of Philadelphia." From the NTSB's Recommendations: To the U.S. Coast Guard; Develop and implement an investigative protocol that directs your investigation officers to routinely check for nonoperational use of cell phones and other wireless electronic devices Revise your commercial vessel accident database to maintain a record of nonoperational use, of those same devices Regulate and enforce the restriction on nonoperational use of these devices Until you can develop regulations governing nonoperational use of cell phones and other wireless electronic devices by on-duty crewmembers in safety-critical positions, continue your outreach program of information and education to the maritime industry on this issue. To Ride The Ducks International: Review Ride The Ducks International‘s existing safety management program and develop improved means to ensure that your company‘s safety and emergency procedures are understood and adhered to by employees in safety-critical positions. To K-Sea Transportation Partners: Review K-Sea Transportation‘s existing safety management program and develop improved means to ensure that your company‘s safety and emergency procedures are understood and adhered to by employees in safety-critical positions.
To Operators in American Waterways, in General: Notify your members of the circumstances of this accident, and encourage them to ensure that their safety and emergency procedures are understood and adhered to by employees in safety-critical positions. The City of Philadelphia would also begin requiring separate lookouts on the bow of barges as a result. In stark contrast is the Boston Duck Tours water route. From my contact representing Boston Ducks; "The traffic on the Charles River in our area is mainly pleasure boating. The only Commercial traffic is from two tourism boat companies upriver from us.
So it’s a very calm and serene spot we operate on." And indeed, this spot on the Charles is less prone to storms than say Table Rock Lake and is not navigable by ocean-going or really, any large craft. But as it pertains to the Ride the Ducks Brand, remember, it is, defunct now. This is NOT to say that there are no more duck tours operating around the world...
many of the issues related to duck tours using original World War 2 Army Ducks, stemmed from, what I can gather, negligence on behalf of Ride the Ducks International. Like we touched on earlier with Boston's Duck Tours, amphibious tours *can* be performed with more safety and reliability built in, but it takes a TON of honest, meticulous effort and purpose built vessels... especially since old DUKWs that other operators may still use, aren't getting any younger. Work both behind the scenes, during the ride, during the off season, training, routine maintenance and so on is all crucial in amphibian tours. You might know by now how much I like my NTSB Op-Eds, so here goes; On the ramming of duck 34, the NTSB Chairman at the time, closed the report stating: "It is time to change public tolerance for distracted operations, and elevate society's opprobrium (reproach or criticism) for transportation operators who use personal electronic devices. This behavior is unsafe and unacceptable.
On July 7, 2010, the Caribbean Sea tugboat/barge combination ran over a sightseeing boat loaded with passengers on the Delaware River in Philadelphia. Although the mate made 13 outgoing calls and received 5 incoming calls in the 80 minutes prior to the accident, the tugboat‘s crewmembers did not report the mate‘s repeated use of his personal cell phone. They likely did not report it because they are used to this type of behavior.
The fact that the mate repeatedly made and received calls unrelated to vessel operations showed that he, too, was comfortable with this behavior. Further, the mate spoke on his cell phone when other people were nearby. The potential for coworkers to observe him violating company policy did not deter his inappropriate behavior. Nor was the company‘s clear policy against using personal electronic devices a deterrent. The NTSB has seen pervasive use of personal electronic devices across all modes of transportation.
Perhaps the best known aviation instance was when two airline pilots were out of radio communication with air traffic control for more than an hour because they were using their personal laptop computers. They overflew their destination by more than 100 miles and only realized their error when a flight attendant inquired about their arrival over the intercom. The NTSB identified distraction due to text messaging as the cause of a September 12, 2008, commuter train engineer running a red signal near Chatsworth, California. The result: a head-on collision with a freight train.
Twenty-five people died and dozens were injured. The engineer, who had a history of using his cell phone for personal communications, sent 136 and received 114 text messages while on duty during the 3 days leading up to the accident. Distractions, as we all know, are a growing concern in our motor vehicles, especially as the handheld and infotainment options in our vehicles increase.
The consequences can be deadly. In one accident the NTSB investigated, in the 24 hours preceding the accident, the driver of a tractor-trailer truck made 97 calls and received 26 calls. In the half hour preceding the crash, the driver spent 14 minutes—nearly half his time—on the phone. Ten people died that day after the truck crossed the median.
Even with company policies, widespread public education campaigns, and, in some places, laws to minimize distractions like cell phone use, many people continue to think, ―I‘ll make this quick call or I‘ll send a brief text message. The technology that created these problems also offers the potential to provide solutions. But, as a society, how do we convey to manufacturers and operators that distractions at the wheel/helm/controls are just as unacceptable as driving under the influence? When will we say; ―This must stop; we cannot do this anymore. Here's a long view of transportation that may shed light on a path to address distracted operations.
In 2006, the NTSB received a request from a historian to reconsider one of the first aviation accidents that the Board investigated. The 1967 accident involved a Piedmont Airlines Boeing 727 and a private twin-engine aircraft that had a mid-air collision over North Carolina. All 82 people on board both planes were killed. The cockpit voice recorder identified that shortly after takeoff, the flight crew of the 727 discussed one of the cockpit ashtrays being on fire. As they put out the fire, the crew joked with the captain about burning his steak at that night‘s barbecue.
However, smoking or burning cigarette ashtrays were such a common occurrence back then that the Board did not even mention the event in the final report. In this time and culture, can you even begin to imagine smoking in an airplane, much less in the cockpit? What changed since 1967? The culture changed. We do not allow smoking on airplanes. It is not even remotely considered.
The consequence—society‘s disapproval—is that strong. I want our society to reach the point when texting or telephoning—whether you're operating a vessel, a train, or a motor vehicle—is just as unacceptable as smoking in a cockpit, or not wearing a seat belt, or driving under the influence of alcohol. Culture change is possible.
It has happened before. It must happen again—now. How many more lives will be lost before our society corrects its deadly acceptance of distractions?" In Memoriam... In Closing...
Don't be afraid to learn something new, change your mind or even challenge your own mental model. At the end of the day, we're all in this together... we're all caught in the churn. So Believe in Yourself... 'Cause You're Important. And Your Safety Matters.
'Til Next Time Everyone, Be Safe Out There...