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An amphibious Ride the Ducks tour bus collided with a charter bus on Seattle's Aurora Bridge yesterday, killing four students and critically injured 15 more people. Witnesses reported seeing the duck boat swerve into another car before hitting the tour bus head-on. The students were from North Seattle College's international program, and were part of an orientation group heading to tour Safeco Field and Pike Place Market.
A total of 51 people were treated for injuries in local hospitals. Though the cause of the collision remains unknown, traffic safety on the narrow, median-less bridge had been a topic for concern for local officials and the National Transportation Safety Board has begun an investigation.
A Bridge Too Narrow
A former driver for Ride the Ducks described the dangerous bridge to the Seattle Times: "The Aurora Bridge in either direction is the scariest part of the trip because the lanes are so narrow and there is so much traffic." He continued:
"The driver is operating a 26,000-pound vehicle that is very wide with a max of 36 lives in your hands. As you approach the Aurora Bridge from the south, you are lining up how you are going to go over the bridge (hug the concrete on the right side or cheat over to the left, straight down the lane or straddle), you are telling tourists to get out their cameras for the Kodak moment while on the bridge and you are trying to queue the music to play 'Come Fly With Me' by Michael Buble."
The latest reports indicate that 15 patients are still being treated at Harborview Medical Center. Two remain in critical condition and another ten are in serious condition in intensive care.
Common Carrier Concerns
Both the duck boat and the tour bus are known as "common carriers," which means they can be held liable for passenger injuries if either acted negligently. Common carriers are generally held to a higher standard of care, though injured passengers may still have to prove that they breached that standard, and that the breach caused their injuries.
The manufacturer of the duck boat could also be liable if there was a mechanical malfunction or defect. One witness told the Seattle Times the duck boat swerved sharply into the next lane. "I initially thought it was a (tire) blow out. The duck boat then hit another car with a roof rack then went head on into the oncoming tour bus."
If you or a loved one has been injured in a bus crash, there are several legal points to consider and you may want to contact an experienced injury attorney about your case.