A Missouri duck boat incident that killed 17 people during stormy weather raises a new round of questions about the safety of the amphibious vessels.
Ride the Ducks Seattle said it constantly monitors the weather, watching out for high wind, storms, rain, fog, and severe conditions. If conditions look bad, they cancel a tour or re-route the vessels.
Passengers are not required to wear life jackets, but each duck boat carries more than enough for passengers and crew, the company said in a statement.
“Our captains are instructed to err on the side of caution, and proactively advise individuals to put on the life preservers due to any circumstance that is out of the norm while on the water,” the company said.
Ride the Ducks Seattle said its vehicles have quick release safety windows and crews perform safety drills at least every 90 days.
“Ride the Ducks Seattle is independently owned and operated, and safety is our No. 1 concern. Our strict internal protocols for weather and water-related safety were developed in close collaboration with the United States Coast Guard,” the company said in a statement.
Despite all that, some onlookers said the Branson incident is yet another reminder of the dangers of duck boats.
“I would never get on one,” said Karen Koehler, an attorney representing the victims of the 2015 Seattle duck boat crash, which killed five people on the Aurora Bridge.
She was in Missouri, last week, gathering depositions for the upcoming civil lawsuit trial, interviewing mechanics and talking with lawyers representing Ride the Ducks.
“When we were in Branson, the defense lawyers kept urging me to get on them go for a ride, telling me how beautiful and cool it was, and I said there was no way I would ever do that,” Koehler said.
Duck boats cruised back and forth on Lake Union, Friday, filled with passengers, undeterred by what happened in Missouri.
“It didn't really change my plans because I'm always pretty safety-conscious anyway when I'm on the water, but definitely we'll have ready access to our life jackets, if not have our life jackets on today,” said Mary Ann Stich, who was visiting from California.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, passenger safety is a boat captain’s responsibility. It is up to them to decide whether conditions are safe and whether their vessel can handle rough weather.