Tugboat mate in fatal duck boat crash was on cell phone

The tour boat company and lawyers for two tourists killed last summer in a crash on the Delaware River in Philadelphia are responding to new information on the accident. The National Transportation Safety Board Monday made public information including interview transcripts and photographs of the events surrounding the crash of the duck boat and a barge towed by a tugboat.   Lawyer Robert Mongeluzzi, who represents the families of the two Hungarian students killed in the crash, said the NTSB findings show cell phones kill, “On that day, cell phones killed these two teenagers,” Mongeluzzi said. “At the time of the accident, the first mate operating the tugboat was on the telephone–his cell phone–talking.  While the first mate on the duck boat, was texting his girlfriend.”

A Ride the Ducks spokeswoman said the phone use is not comparable because the duck boat crew member was on an anchored vessel, while the tugboat operator was in charge of two moving vessels. In response to the NTSB material, Ride the Ducks President Chris Herschend pointed to the cell phone use of the tug’s mate … and to repeated Duck Boat distress calls.

Herschend said the boats are safe. “We hope to resume operations this month. We’re working with the Coast Guard and they’ve provided their approval that our operation is safe and can run safely on the Delaware.  We’re working now with the city,” said Herschend.

“They’re a very important stakeholder to our operation and we want to make sure they’re comfortable and supportive of our return.”

Herschend said the company’s first concern is safety.

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