A 20-year-old woman died on Sunday of injuries suffered in Thursday’s crash on the Aurora Bridge, the fifth victim fatality from of the collision between a Ride the Ducks tour vehicle and a charter bus.
The woman, identified as a student at North Seattle College, died Sunday at Harborview Medical Center, a spokeswoman for the hospital said. All five victims of those who died were students attending the college.
Also Sunday, Gov. Jay Inslee says the state will seek to suspend the operations of the duck boat fleet pending the outcome of an investigation.
Inslee and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said in a statement Sunday night that the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission will meet Monday (Sept. 28) to discuss its authority to suspend Ride the Ducks of Seattle until the review is complete. The company says it has already temporarily halted its operations while it assists investigators looking into a crash last Thursday.
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Meanwhile, the National Transportation Safety Board said Sunday that the duck boat did not have an axle repair that was recommended for at least some of the amphibious vehicles in 2013,
Ride the Ducks International, which refurbished the boat in 2005, issued a warning to its customers two years ago about potential axle failure and recommended a specific repair or increased monitoring, said NTSB member Earl Weener.
“This particular duck had not had the fix,” he told said at a news conference.
Witnesses described seeing the duck boat’s left front tire lock up before it veered into the bus, and federal investigators announced Saturday that they found the duck boat’s left front axle sheared off — though they said it wasn’t clear if the axle had broken before or after the collision.
Ride the Ducks International informed investigators late Saturday that it had issued the warning, he said. It’s unclear if the company that owns the vehicle — Ride the Ducks of Seattle — was aware of the warning, Weener said.
“We’re going to be following that,” he said.
A representative of the Seattle duck tour company said he did not have any immediate comment on the NTSB’s account.
In addition to the five international college students who died, the crash injured more than 40 students and staff members from North Seattle College. They were on the bus on the Aurora Bridge when the tourist-carrying duck boat swerved into it.
More than 50 people were taken to hospitals. At least 16 people remained at Seattle hospitals Sunday.
The amphibious vehicle tours are offered around the world, including in Philadelphia, Austin, Texas; Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and London. They feature former military landing craft repurposed as tour vehicles.
The vehicle involved in the Seattle crash was an Army surplus craft built in 1945. It was refurbished with a General Motors engine and chassis in 2005, Weener said.
The NTSB had few details Sunday about the warning Ride the Ducks International issued. It wasn’t clear what prompted the warning or how the potential failure was discovered, or whether it applied to all duck boats or only those that the company had refurbished, he said. It wasn’t clear how many of the 100 duck boats in service nationally may have had the repair, he said.
The warning included specific instructions for inspecting the area where the shaft could fail, as well as instructions for the repair, which involved welding collars around the axle shaft, Weener said.
Results of the federal probe are not expected for a year, he said. Investigators have interviewed 11 surviving passengers, including eight who were on the duck, and first responders. They expect to interview the drivers of the charter bus and the duck this week.
Weener described Ride the Ducks of Seattle as cooperative, and said the company had turned over training records and maintenance documents for the duck.
It’s the first time the NTSB has looked into a land crash of the amphibious vehicles, which critics say are too dangerous for city streets. The federal agency has scrutinized duck tour vehicles several times when they’ve been in accidents on water.
State regulators also have opened an investigation, which entails inspecting all vehicle and driver records.
The amphibious vehicle involved in the crash — known as Duck No. 6 — underwent regular annual examinations by a federally certified inspector, most recently in 2015 and 2014, and met federal standards, Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission spokeswoman Amanda Maxwell said.
The Seattle Times contributed to this story.