Ride the Ducks of Seattle has shut down and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy citing legal issues related to a fatal 2015 crash compounded by the coronavirus pandemic.
The company, which closed last month, filed for liquidation listing assets of $660,708.90 and liabilities of $5.2 million, court documents show.
“We’ve been working hard to rebuild our business over the past few years and had been making great progress,” the company said on its website. But the aftermath of the crash was “simply too much for our company to overcome.”
They’ve been trying to hold the manufacturer of the amphibious passenger vehicle accountable, they said, “and while we believe we will be successful, it will come too late…. While the Covid-19 situation certainly accelerated our decision, we were faced with a set of financial realities that were inescapable.”
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that improper manufacturing and inadequate maintenance involving the left front axle housing led to the crash that killed five people and injured 71 on the Aurora Bridge over Lake Union.
The accident occurred as Duck 6 and a motor coach were traveling in opposite directions when the duck driver heard a loud noise at the left front of the vehicle. He then lost control and the duck crossed the center line and hit the bus, the NTSB said. Three other vehicles also were damaged.
The safety board also said Ride the Ducks International, the manufacturer, should tell its licensees to stop operating their stretch ducks until they repair or replace the axle housings.
The duck boats that carry passengers around major cities in and out of the water are a small segment of the passenger vessel market fashioned around the DUKW amphibious trucks built for World War II. Some vessels are all new construction; others are rebuilt on original chassis. They have been involved in several high profile accidents, most recently a sinking that killed 17 people near Branson, Mo., in 2018.
Following the Seattle incident, the company faced lawsuits from those injured and the families of those killed, according to published reports. The company’s suit against Ride the Ducks International — alleging the ducks were sold without the axle housing problem being disclosed — is pending in federal court.
The manufacturer said in response that it issued a service bulletin that “contained axle modification and maintenance instructions to be implemented prior to the 2014 operating season.”