January 14, 2016 / 10:06 PM / 3 years ago

Seattle amphibious bus operator to resume tours after deadly crash

SEATTLE (Reuters) - A Seattle land-to-water tour bus operator said it will resume operations with two sold out tours on Friday, 3-1/2 months after a crash between one of its Ride the Ducks vehicles and a charter bus killed five international students.

Officers investigate the scene of a crash between a Ride the Ducks vehicle and a charter bus on the Aurora Bridge in Seattle, Washington September 24, 2015. REUTERS/Jason Redmond

The Sept. 24 collision on the city’s busy Aurora Bridge increased scrutiny of the boat-buses, which have been involved in several deadly crashes in recent years.

“Our team has been working hard to prepare for our re-launch, and on behalf of more than 130 employees, we are thankful to be back on the road again,” Brian Tracey, chief executive of Ride the Ducks of Seattle, said in a statement.

Washington state officials concluded from a post-crash investigation that the company had violated safety regulations 442 times. It could face penalties up to $1,000 per infraction.

Mark Firmani, a lawyer for Ride the Ducks of Seattle, said the state’s Utilities and Transportation Commission had not yet ruled on any fines or penalties. The agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tracey said the state had found just one mechanical issue with its fleet, and said the company repaired that problem the same day.

Firmani said most of the violations were related to record-keeping, and that the operator will file a response to all of them by the end of the month. He said he expects the company to regain its “satisfactory” safety rating.

In order to resume operations, Ride the Ducks of Seattle agreed to use new street routes to avoid the Aurora Bridge, local and state officials said.

The company also agreed to add a second staff member to each tour, officials said, allowing the captain to focus on driving and not have to act as a guide as well.

The five students killed in September’s crash were from Austria, Indonesia, Japan and China. About 50 people were sent to local hospitals for treatment.

The accident came four months after an amphibious sightseeing vehicle in Philadelphia fatally struck a woman on a street. In 2010, two tourists were killed when a tugboat pushed a barge into a similar vehicle, also in Philadelphia.

Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Dan Grebler

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