Q&A: Things to know about the deadly Seattle duck boat crash

 

SEATTLE (AP) — Federal officials are investigating a deadly crash last week between an amphibious tour vehicle and a charter bus carrying international college students in Seattle. Here are questions and answers about the collision and the National Transportation Safety Board investigation.

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WHAT HAPPENED?

A so-called duck boat carrying about three dozen tourists and a charter bus with about 45 North Seattle College students and staff aboard were traveling in different directions across a bridge Thursday when witnesses say they saw the duck boat’s left tire lock up as it swerved into the bus.

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HOW MANY PEOPLE DIED?

Four people were killed Thursday and a fifth —a 20-year-old woman — died Sunday at a hospital. Her name has not been released, but she was an international student attending North Seattle College.

Authorities identified the others killed as: Runje Song, 17, of China; Privando Putradanto, 18, of Indonesia; Mami Sato, 36, of Japan; and Claudia Derschmidt, 49, of Austria. All were international students heading to orientation activities.

More than 50 people were transported to area hospitals following the accident. At least 13 remained hospitalized Sunday.

Seattle Police investigators examine the front tire from a Ride the Ducks tour bus as it lies on the ground following a crash involving the tour bus and several other vehicles, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015 in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Seattle Police investigators examine the front tire from a Ride the Ducks tour bus as it lies on the ground following a crash involving the tour bus and several other vehicles, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015 in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

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WHAT HAS THE INVESTIGATION FOUND?

Authorities say it will be months before they can determine an exact cause of the accident. The duck boat’s left front axle was sheared off, though it wasn’t clear if the axle had broken before or after the collision, officials said.

The duck boat did not have an axle repair that was recommended for at least some of the amphibious vehicles in 2013, NTSB member Earl Weener said Sunday. Ride the Ducks International, which refurbished the boat in 2005, warned its customers two years ago about potential axle failure and recommended a specific repair or increased monitoring, he said.

It’s unclear if the company that owns the vehicle — Ride the Ducks of Seattle — was aware of the warning, Weener said.

Ride the Ducks of Seattle owner Brian Tracey didn’t say in a statement Sunday night whether the company knew of the warning.

“We are working to understand what happened and have completely opened our operations to NTSB investigators,” he said.

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WHAT EXACTLY ARE DUCK BOATS?

The U.S. Army deployed thousands of amphibious landing craft during World War II that were known then by their military designation, DUKW. Once the war was over, they were used by civilian law enforcement agencies and also converted to sightseeing vehicles in U.S. cities. The DUKW designation was replaced with the duck boat moniker that is used by various tour companies.

The vehicle involved in the Seattle crash was an Army surplus craft built in 1945.

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HAVE THERE BEEN PREVIOUS DUCK BOAT ACCIDENTS?

An amphibious vehicle sank on Lake Hamilton in Arkansas in 1999, killing 13 people in an accident the National Transportation Safety Board blamed on inadequate maintenance. Investigators determined that the vessel, built by the Army in 1944, was not designed for passenger service and, as a result, lacked the proper buoyancy to remain afloat.

In 2010, a barge hit a sightseeing duck boat on the Delaware River near Philadelphia, sinking it in water about 55 feet deep and killing two Hungarian tourists. More than 25 people were injured.

The NTSB found that the tugboat operator was distracted by his cellphone and laptop computer. Investigators also found fault with the maintenance of the duck boat and decisions by the captain to anchor in an active navigation channel.