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Wrongful Death Suit Filed in Duck Boat Incident

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By Jason Beahm on August 11, 2010 10:12 AM

The tragic duck boat accident on the Delaware River in Philadelphia has led to a wrongful death suit. The parents of two Hungarians, Dora Schwendtner, 16, and Szabolcs Prem, 20, who were killed in the Duck Boat incident, have filed suit against several parties including the city and the Duck Boat tour company.

The family alleges that "Ride the Ducks" was negligent when the captain shut off the engine and dropped the boat's anchor in the middle of the Delaware River. The suit blames the city for allowing the Delaware River to become dangerous due to a mixture of large commercial vessels, such as the barge that ran over the Duck Boat, and smaller boats. In addition, the lawsuit alleges that the tug company that pushed the barge was reckless when it failed to make use of a lookout to avoid blind spots. The Duck Boat capsized and later sank, throwing 37 people into the river.

"At the time of the incident, the tugboat was pushing a 290-foot barge upriver both blind and deaf, without caring what or whom they would run over or kill," the lawsuit said.

The plaintiff's attorneys highlighted the following alleged mistakes by "Ride the Ducks":

  • Failing to increase the buoyancy of the vessel per the NTSB recommendations
  • Operating in violation of National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendations by having a fixed canopy barring timely passenger escape in the event of a loss of buoyancy
  • Failing to maintain basic safety equipment - including an air horn - and failure to issue and require passengers wear floatation devices
  • Intentionally operating outside their Coast Guard-approved limit
  • Failing to properly summon emergency assistance

The lawyer who filed the wrongful death suit, called the deaths from the Duck Boat incident senseless and preventable and questioned why the company did not follow safety changes recommended after a 1999 Duck Boat incident in Arkansas killed 13 people, the Associated Press reports.

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