Duck boat company suspending operations nationwide after accident

A search vessel passes a marker for a sunken amphibious craft as it looks for two missing tour boat passengers on the Delaware River in Philadelphia, Thursday, July 8, 2010. The passengers' craft in which they were riding was struck and sunk by a barge Wednesday. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Hope faded for finding two tour boat
passengers alive Thursday, a day after the amphibious craft they
were riding in was struck and sunk by a barge in the Delaware
River, spilling them and other passengers into the murky waters,
searchers said.
A search for the missing duck boat passengers resumed in the
morning near Philadelphia's Penn's Landing, with boats searching
the surface and using sonar, but conditions were too dangerous to
send divers underwater Thursday.
Interviews with other passengers indicated the missing
16-year-old girl and 20-year-old man were members of a Hungarian
tour group, officials said.
"We're still searching with some hope," Coast Guard Capt. Todd
Gatlin said Thursday at a news conference. "Hopes are fading - but
with some hope that they've survived. They could be in the boat,
they could be other places."
Visibility at the bottom of the river, where the boat was lying
in about 50 feet of water, was nil, said Philadelphia police Lt.
Andrew Napoli, speaking of his earlier dives.
"The vehicle is laying upright on its wheels," he said.
"There could be bodies inside, we're not sure. ... With the
currents being what they are, if it went down with bodies inside,
the bodies could very well have been washed out of the vessel."
The 37 people aboard the six-wheeled duck boat were tossed
overboard when the tugboat-pushed barge hit it after it had been
adrift for a few minutes with its engine stalled, police said. Most
were plucked from the river by other vessels in a frantic rescue
operation that happened in full view of Penn's Landing, just south
of the massive Ben Franklin Bridge connecting Philadelphia to New
The duck boat, which can travel seamlessly on land and water,
had driven into the river Wednesday afternoon and suffered a
mechanical problem and a small fire, officials said. It was struck
about 10 minutes later by a barge used to transport sludge.
Ten people were taken to a hospital; two declined treatment, and
eight were treated and released, Hahnemann University Hospital
spokeswoman Coleen Cannon said.
The tour company, Norcross, Ga.-based Ride the Ducks, said
Thursday that it was suspending operations nationwide, a day after
it suspended its Philadelphia tours. It also operates tours in San
Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta, Newport, R.I., and Branson, Mo.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with our Philadelphia guests,
crew members and their families," the company said in a statement.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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