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Four Dead As Bus And 'Ride The Ducks’ Vehicle Collide On Seattle's Aurora Bridge

A Seattle college says the four people killed in a crash involving a charter bus and an amphibious tour vehicle were international students on their way to new student orientation events.

The crash involving a "duck boat" and the charter bus carrying the students happened Thursday on the Aurora Bridge, which carries one of the city's main north-south highways over a lake.

At least two other people were critically hurt.

In a statement Thursday evening, North Seattle College said "four of our students were tragically killed" in the crash, and that because they were international students, government official were working to contact their family members.

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Credit Seattle Fire Department
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Seattle Fire Department

Twenty-three-year-old Brad Volm, of Philadelphia, says he was driving behind the duck boat, heading north on the Aurora Avenue bridge, when the amphibious vehicle swerved in front of him. Volm says it appeared the duck boat's front left tire locked up, and the vehicle swerved into the oncoming charter bus.

John Mundell says he was at the south end of the bridge when he heard a screech and twisted metal and saw what appeared to be a few dozen people on the ground. Mundell says he wanted to help the injured but "felt helpless.”

The amphibious, military-style tour vehicles are operated by a tour company called "Ride the Ducks" and are known for exuberant drivers and tour guides who play loud music and quack through megaphones as they lead tourists around the city.

Brian Tracey of Ride the Ducks told the Associated Press his main concern is with the families of the four killed and dozens injured. Tracey says there were 36 people on the amphibious tour vehicle, whose driver has a Coast Guard license and a commercial driving license. He says all company drivers are required to take continuing education classes. He says he doesn't know what caused the crash Thursday, but "we will get to the bottom of it."

Seattle police and fire officials didn't immediately describe the chain of events leading to the crash. The National Transportation Safety Board will send a team to investigate.

The Seattle area’s regional network of blood centers has issued an urgent call for donations after receiving a torrent of requests from local hospitals treating victims of the Aurora Bridge crash. Bloodworks Northwest CEO James AuBuchon said they have enough blood to meet the immediate need, but they need donations to quickly replenish their supplies.

He says even after an initial surge in giving, the need will remain.

“We have gotten an overwhelming immediate response, much more than we were anticipating, which was wonderful. But we will still need extra support from the community in the days and weeks to come, to rebuild the inventories,” he said.

AuBuchon said blood supplies tend to run low at the end of summer anyway. He says O-positive and O-negative blood are especially in demand, and he encouraged donors to make an appointment at one of Bloodworks’ 12 locations. 

There have been some high-profile accidents with duck boats elsewhere in the country. In 1999, a duck boat in Arkansas sank, drowning 13 people. In 2010, two Hungarian tourists were drowned after the duck boat they were traveling in was hit by a barge and sank. This this past May, a female pedestrian was struck and killed by a duck boat in Philadelphia as she crossed the street

Bob Mongeluzzi, a lawyer who’s suing the Philadelphia duck boat company on behalf of the woman’s husband, said the amphibious vehicles are poorly designed for driving on city streets.

“There are massive blind spots in front of the duck boat because, unlike a regular vehicle which has a hood, this has a 10-foot bow in front of you, and it obliterates the driver’s vision,” Mongeluzzi said.

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