Duck boat distress calls were unanswered
Distress calls from a disabled tour boat and others went unanswered by a tug guiding a barge that struck and sank the duck boat in the Delaware River in July, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report. Two died and 10 were injured in the accident.
The 33′ amphibious vehicle anchored in the Delaware River navigation channel after the master smelled an odor and thought the boat might be on fire, according to the NTSB. A recording of marine VHF channel 13 indicates that there were several calls from the duck boat to the tug. “No response [from the tug]can be heard on the recording,” the report said.
The duck boat’s stern was then struck by the bow of the city of Philadelphia’s 250′ sludge barge The Resource , which was being towed at about 5.8 knots by K-Sea Transportation Partners ‘ 75’ tug Caribbean Sea , the NTSB said.
The report on the July 7 accident provides no analysis, which will be released in a final report that could take 12 to 18 months to complete. Investigators interviewed all crewmembers except the mate operating the Caribbean Sea . Tests of both vessels’ crews turned up no evidence of alcohol or illegal drugs.
The NTSB report “unequivocally shows our captain’s repeated distress calls on the established broadcast channel went unanswered, although they were heard and retransmitted by other vessels in the area,” Chris Herschend, president of Norcross, Ga.-based Ride The Ducks , owner of the Philadelphia duck boat operation, said in a statement. “The question remains why did these calls go unanswered and why won’t the first mate cooperate in the investigation.”
“K-Sea does not believe that it is appropriate to comment publicly on the incident until the joint investigation is concluded and the findings and recommendations have been released by the agencies,” said Darrell Wilson, a spokesman for the East Brunswick, N.J., company. K-Sea voluntarily suspended its contract with the city, which then contracted McAllister Towing and Transportation Co. Inc. to handle the sludge work.
Frank DeSimone, the mate’s attorney, declined to comment on the NTSB report. He said his client is not talking to investigators “at this time.”
On Oct. 1, Ride The Ducks and the city of Philadelphia announced a new duck tour on the Schuylkill River, which will begin in March 2011.