Katherine Pecora, Staff Writer
If you have ever driven through downtown Seattle, you have probably gone past a Ride the Ducks boat. Filled with tourists wielding yellow duck shaped kazoos quacking insistently at cars and pedestrians, the Ride the Ducks tourist attraction is a well-known facet of the downtown Seattle tourist scene. You may also remember the deadly Aurora Bridge crash back in 2015. On Feb. 7, 2019, the Seattle branch of Ride the Ducks was held liable for 30-33 percent of the accident, and Ride the Ducks International was held liable for the remaining 67-70 percent. This decision focused on the reliability of this product and explained why Ride the Ducks was held responsible for the crash. The victims of the crash were awarded $123 million. The company stated that they had made significant structural changes to their vehicles and had made other extensive changes following the crash. “We’ve done a top-to-bottom review of our operations and have unilaterally made a series of changes including removing the Aurora Bridge from our route,” a Ride the Ducks Seattle spokesperson said. “We’ve been working hard to regain the trust of those we serve and will continue to do so in the future.” Jurors were given a week and a half to wade through the complicated evidence following the closing arguments in the case.
The crash occurred on Sept. 24, 2015, when duck boat No. 6 crossed the center lane on the Aurora bridge near downtown Seattle and rammed into a tour bus. Investigators after the crash determined that the left front axle snapped, causing the vehicle to swerve. According to King 5: “Five college students died, and more than 60 others were hurt.”
“The question is not were they injured … the question is the nature and extent of their injuries,” said Jack Snyder, representing Ride the Ducks International. Interestingly, in 2013, all duck owners were required to repair and strengthen that very same left axle, according to a bulletin from Ride the Ducks International. According to King5: “Ride the Ducks Seattle did not heed that warning. Ride the Ducks International implied the blame fell on the local operator. But, Ride the Ducks Seattle’s attorneys argued [the] International [branch] knew of previous breakdowns, and so blame for the defect should lie with them.” The court documents uncovered that the same Ride the Ducks Seattle vehicle was involved in three separate accidents on the Aurora bridge before the fatal crash. Ride the Ducks has been responsible for payments to the families of those killed and injured in the crash. Mainly, the company has paid nearly a quarter million dollars in fines for dozens of safety violations. Ride the Ducks has aimed to fix the issues they have had in the past and move forward with safe, yet fun rides for all.