Crashed ‘Duck’ not repaired; fleet’s safety in question as state suspends tour company’s operations

OLYMPIA, Wash. – There are new questions about the safety of Ride the Ducks and now the state has taken drastic action.

“We’re taking this very seriously,” said David Pratt, assistant director of transportation safety with the Washington State Transportation and Utility Commission. “We believe it’s in the public interest to make sure that this company is safe and that the vehicles are operating as safe before they start operating again.”

Ride the Ducks’ parent company sounded the alarm in 2013 that all duck boats needed a repair to it’s left front axle, but investigators said the boat that crashed wasn’t fixed. Investigators are trying to determine if any of the boats received the repair.

Federal investigators will focus their attention on two important areas. First, a sheared off axle on the ride the ducks vehicle that crashed in to a charter bus last week that killed 5 people.

And second, a bulletin which was sent two years ago by the parent company of Ride the Ducks, urging an important fix on all front axles.

“Is it your view that the axle problem that occurred on the vehicle on the aurora bridge last week is a problem that could be on everyone of their vehicles?” asked UTC Chairman David Danner.

“Preliminary indication is that there was an axle issue that might have contributed to the cause of that accident,” replied Pratt. “Early indications we’ve learned was that this company has not made any repairs of their axles on any of their vehicles.”

The National Transportation Safety Board revealed that Ride the Ducks International sent a service bulletin in 2013 to duck franchises across the country, including here in Seattle, recommending the important repairs.

In a statement on Monday, RDI said, “This maintenance work involved inspection and reinforcement of the front axle housing assembly.”

But investigators said duck number 6, the vehicle that collided with the tour bus, had not received those critical axle repairs.

State and federal officials aren't required to be notified by RDI about the service bulletin. The bulletin has now been handed over to the NTS as part of their investigation and the UTC is looking to see if Ride the Ducks Seattle ever got that notice.

“We need to do an investigation,” said Pratt. “Because we believe there could be some kind of imminent danger, we’ve asked them to suspend operation to but time to put the complaint together.”

RDI said all other duck boat operators across the country completed the repairs and said in a statement, “We had no reason to believe that Seattle had not complied with the bulletin.”

Ride the Ducks Seattle CEO Brian Tracey has not commented on whether his company complied with the bulletin, but promises to cooperate fully with investigators.

“Our ironclad commitment of the community is that Ride the Ducks of Seattle, the vehicles on the road have been inspected stem to stern and are deemed safe.”

State inspectors plan to physically look at each and every ducks vehicle in the coming weeks – until that happens, the company will not be allowed to offer tours.