Jury awards $123 million to duck boat victims

Motorcoach operators assigned no blame

by Rick Stoff and Ken Presley

A state court jury found a “duck boat” company liable for $123 million in damages stemming from the 2015 collision with Ferndale, WA based Bellair Charters & Airporter.

The crash occurred on the Aurora Bridge and left five dead and nearly 60 injured.

The jury assigned 67-70 percent of the responsibility for the crash to Ride the Ducks International and 30-33 percent responsibility to Ride the Ducks Seattle. Plaintiff’s counsel representing 42 people who were injured or killed in the crash, were seeking $300 million. Along with the boat manufacturer and operator, plaintiff’s sought damages from the city of Seattle and the state of Washington; however, the jury found no liability on their part.

The collision occurred when a repurposed World War II-era amphibious craft commonly referred to as a “duck boat” crossed the center median and slammed into an oncoming motorcoach that was carrying international students. It also hit two pickup trucks and a sport utility vehicle. The five people killed were among 49 passengers of the coach. Passengers in the duck boat also suffered minor to serious injuries.

In 2016, the National Transportation Safety Board determined the probable cause of the crash “was the mechanical failure, due to improper manufacturing by Ride the Ducks International (vehicle manufacturer) and inadequate maintenance by Ride the Ducks of Seattle (operator), of the left front axle housing of the stretch amphibious passenger vehicle (APV) DUCK 6, which resulted in loss of vehicle control.”

Duck boats are repurposed World War II-era vehicles today often used as tourism vehicles that can travel by land or water.

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