Kin of crash victims watch NTSB hearing

    As federal transportation officials released the final report on the Delaware River duck boat accident, the families of the two students who were killed in the July 7 crash have been watching the National Transportation Safety Board hearings from their homes in Hungary.

    Peter Ronai, an attorney for the families, said they “basically had one word to say and that was ‘raszas,’ which is the Hungarian word for shock or horror.”

    The families of the two students are suing Ride the Ducks, the tug boat company, and the city of Philadelphia.

    The NTSB primarily blamed the accident in the Delaware River on the use of cell phones and laptop computers.

    The NTSB says the first mate of the tug boat pulling a barge that ran over a stalled duck boat spent 10 of 12 minutes before the crash on his cell phone. He was also surfing the Internet on his laptop computer and sitting in the lower wheelhouse where he could not see the stranded duck boat.

    Andrew Duffy, who also represents the victims’ families, said driving while distracted is the new “DWI.”

    “As much as drinking and driving, as much as making a decision to get into your car after you’ve had too many,” he said. “That being on your cell phone, texting, being on a computer, kills.”

    An employee of the Ride the Ducks tourist attraction also was using a cell phone before the crash—contrary to company policy. And the duck boat operators had overlooked some safety precautions.

    Ride the Ducks spokesman Bob Salmon says it’s something the company took to heart.

    “We clearly understand what occurred that day. Things were done that were not consistent with our company policy as it relates to texting or even cell phone use on our vessel,” he said. “And we’ve taken action to make sure these types of events don’t happen again.”

    The company has instituted several additional safety measures, including having a boat on standby to assist any disabled duck boat.

    The crash dumped 37 people into the Delaware River.

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