The driver of the Ride the Ducks vehicle in the 2015 Aurora bridge crash said he's still recovering physically and mentally from the crash that killed five people and injured dozens of others.
Eric Bishop said he felt villainized right up until a jury found Ride the Ducks liable for the crash. The City of Seattle and state of Washington were not found liable. The crash victims were awarded $123 million.
Bishop broke nine ribs and suffered a back injury, among other injuries.
On Friday, Bishop spoke directly to reporters for the first time. He said he flinches whenever he's in a vehicle that passes by a bus or truck.
"I'm trying to rebuild my life," he said, adding that it's a work in progress.
Bishop said he didn't have any options when Duck boat No. 6 crossed the center line on the Aurora bridge and rammed a tour bus on Sept. 24, 2015. Investigators determined the vehicle’s left front axle snapped.
"That steering wheel first felt like jello. I was standing on the brakes with both hands trying to pull that wheel back. I did everything I possibly could," Bishop said.
"I was basically in a fight for my life, our lives, [all] 37 souls on board."
If the Duck boat didn't crash into the bus, Bishop said there's a possibility it would have gone off the bridge.
"The way the bow of the boat is built and the jersey barrier, we probably would have gone right over the edge," said Bishop. "We would have careened right off. Those five souls gave their lives for 37 more."
Immediately after the impact, Bishop said his previous emergency training kicked in. He thought to himself, "OK, we need to fix this." By then, he could already hear sirens.
Ride the Ducks Seattle was held liable for 30-33 percent, and Ride the Ducks International was held liable for 67-70 percent. The jury's decision focused on product liability, explaining why Ride the Ducks was held responsible.
Bishop said the crash could have been prevented.
"Why didn't someone do something?" he asked. "I knew deep down inside I had nothing to do with this. But until the NTSB report came out, it was like being on pins and needles."
The NTSB said metal fatigue led to cracking of the left steering knuckle that broke off just before the duck swerved left into oncoming traffic, causing the crash. Two reinforcements of the knuckles, one that existed on the accident vehicle and a second that was never installed, would not have prevented the axle failure, according to the NTSB.
Investigators said Ride the Ducks International did issue service bulletins to weld in a larger collar to prevent cracking, but the local franchise, Ride the Ducks Seattle, had not only failed to perform that work, but had failed to perform 80 percent of work called for by other service bulletins. Ride the Ducks Seattle did check for visible signs of "canting" of the wheels that might indicate a problem. Since then, Ride the Ducks Seattle has dramatically upgraded its safety procedures.