Not quite a year ago, a tourist amphibious “duck boat” was run down on the Delaware River by barge on the hip of the tug boat, Caribbean Sea. Two passengers died in the collision. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued a press release regarding their findings. The press release suggests that the tug’s mate on watch was distracted by his use of his cell phone and laptop computer which led to his failure to maintain a proper look-out. The mate reportedly was also in the tug’s lower wheel house which had limited visibility, rather than in the tug’s upper wheel house.
MATE’S DISTRACTION LEAD TO FATAL 2010 “DUCK BOAT” ACCIDENT
“This is yet another example of the deadliness of distractions,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A. P. Hersman. “Distraction is a safety concern across all modes of transportation. Regardless of the reason, it’s not okay to multi-task while operating a vehicle – whether it’s calling, texting, or surfing the web.”
The accident, which occurred at approximately 2:37 pm, involved an empty 250-foot-long sludge barge, The Resource, that was being towed alongside a 78.9-foot long tugboat, the Caribbean Sea. The barge collided with the DUKW 34, an anchored amphibious passenger vehicle, which sank in approximately 55 feet of water. There were 35 passengers and two crew members onboard the DUKW 34 and five crew members onboard the Caribbean Sea. Two DUKW 34 passengers were killed; 26 passengers and one crewmember suffered minor injuries. No one on board the Caribbean Sea was injured.
The investigation also revealed that maintenance personnel from Ride The Ducks International, LLC, the DUKW 34 owner and operator, did not ensure that the surge tank pressure cap was securely in place before returning the vehicle to passenger service. This allowed the engine to overheat, leading the DUKW 34 master to stop the vessel and anchor in an active channel.
Further, NTSB investigators found that while Ride The Ducks International, LLC, had written procedures for safe operational practices and emergency situations, the master of DUKW 34 did not take all actions appropriate to address the risk of anchoring in an active navigation channel. The NTSB determined these omissions contributed to the accident.