A year after fatal Delaware River crash, grief and fear linger

Thursday is the first anniversary of a disaster on Philadelphia’s stretch of the Delaware River that killed two Hungarian tourists. Ride the Ducks halted operations in the city for the day in memory of the two young people who died when a barge struck the duck boat they were riding.

The operator of the tug boat that was pulling the barge was on his cell phone at the time of the accident.

Pastor Scott Widmer remembers vividly when he heard about the accident back on that steamy July day,

“I was in my study and one of my parishioners called me and said I hope that I am wrong, but I think I just saw Jackie being pulled up out of the Delaware River after a Duck Boat accident,” Widmer said Thursday. “The thought that stays with me, especially after seeing those pictures of the barge running down the duck boat into the Delaware River, is that any of them survived is miraculous.”

Widmer is with Marshallton United Methodist Church, which was hosting the Hungarian tourists. He says it’s been a difficult year for the seven members of the church who were on the boat with the 15 Hungarian visitors.

“Post-traumatic stress clips us from behind, it brings nightmares, night terrors, it puts anybody in the position of an almost endless loop of repeating the accident and the horrors they experienced that day,” he said. “So in the case of our youth leader Jackie Kennedy, when she can’t perform certain functions, we step up and pitch in and take over for her. We remain supportive for the whole journey.”

Lawyer Andrew Duffy represents the families of the two tourists who were killed. They have sued Ride the Ducks and the city.

“Whereas last year, there was confusion and hope, you know this year is the first year of the fatality. It’s devastating because they have learned more and more about the failures that caused their children’s deaths,” Duffy said. “To this day, that is just tough for them to comprehend.”

On Sunday, Marshallton United Methodist Church members will mark the somber anniversary.

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