Ride The Ducks Philadelphia abruptly announced Tuesday it has suspended its amphibious tour boat operation on the Delaware River and city streets, citing surging insurance costs as it faces a second fatal accident lawsuit.
In a statement on its national website, the Branson, Mo. based tour operator and licensor said “due to circumstances outside of our control, including a 330% increase in our insurance premiums, continued operations in Philadelphia are not financially feasible at this time. We enjoyed serving the people of Philadelphia since 2003, serving over one million guests during that time.
“We are working with the 42 full and part-time employees from our Philadelphia location offering severance and outplacement assistance.”
The company is facing a lawsuit over a May 2015 accident when a tourist from Texas was struck and killed by a duck boat while crossing a street. Five years earlier in July 2010, a collision on the Delaware involving a duck boat and barge left two student tourists from Hungary dead.
One of the company’s boats was anchored in the river mid-tour while the captain investigated smoke coming from a vent. The boat was struck by the bow of a 250’ barge, The Resource, as it was pushed by the 2,400-hp tugboat Caribbean Sea.
In 2011 tugboat mate Matthew Devlin pleaded guilty and was sentenced in federal court to a year and one day in jail and revocation of his Coast Guard license. Prosecutors said the mate had been on his cellphone and laptop, dealing with a family emergency, instead of keeping proper watch in the upper wheelhouse.
A 2012 lawsuit was settled within days of going to trial, without any parties accepting responsibility. The settlement brought $15 million for the victims’ families and $2 million to a fund for 18 survivors.
Philadelphia lawyer Robert J. Mongeluzzi brought the lawsuit over the 2010 collision and is now representing the family of the tourist who was struck in 2015. Mongeluzzi told the online news site BillyPenn that lawsuit will not be affected by Ride the Ducks’ decision to stop its operations in the city.
Derived from the World War II DUKW amphibious truck, the 99 vehicles used by Ride the Ducks affiliates in eight cities have been purpose built by the company with Coast Guard certification since 1997.
The Philadelphia shutdown comes a year after the Ride The Ducks licensee in San Francisco ended operations after eight years. In a statement, the parent company cited its assessment of “long-term profitability” in the city.
Local news media noted a recent move by the city to ban tour vehicle operators from narrating while driving.
“San Francisco is an iconic destination but an extremely challenging business environment,” the company said then. “Despite consistent attendance and revenue growth during our time here – and an outstanding guest response – we concluded that the costs of continuing to operate in San Francisco exceeded the profit potential.”