A private contractor hired to inspect the fleet of “Ride the Ducks” tour boats in Branson, Missouri has questioned several of the design features of the vessels, stating that these features might have constituted safety hazards.
Ex-Army diesel mechanic and private marine surveyor Steven Paul said to CNN that he conducted a pre-sale inspection of the Ride the Ducks fleet in 2017.
He said that he had informed the new operator, Ripley Entertainment, in a written report, that one of the most prominent things was the exhaust being at front of the vessel, which, according to US Department of Transportation standards, would not pass regulation.
Stretch Duck 7 sank in high waves last Thursday July 19th, drowning 17 people in what was one of the worst tourist accidents in the US in recent years.
Paul said that, during the fatal journey the ship was taking, there were heavy waves to the front end. With the exhaust coming out the front and going down below the water line, the waves would obviously have been pushing water up the exhaust. That, he said could have stopped the boat’s engine.
The Ride the Ducks boats are operated by franchisees in several American cities have gone through multiple design iterations over the past decade, and Paul did not specify which models he inspected last year.
Attorney Robert Mongeluzzi, who has litigated the outcome of previous duck-boat accidents and is representing victims in the Stretch Duck 7 case, has alleged that the amphibious vehicles are inherently dangerous. “They have killed on the water, they have killed on the land, and they should be banned,” he said on Monday July 23rd.
Meanwhile, US Coast Guard spokeswoman Lt Tasha Sadowicz told the Kansas City Star that the USCG would be examining company policies and crew decision making surrounding weather conditions.
The USCG said on Tuesday that salvage operations for the wreckage of the duck boat were now complete. The boat was loaded out onto a flatbed trailer and taken to a secure location for an examination by the National Transportation Safety Board.