Inslee backs possible Aurora Bridge improvements after deadly crash; 'Duck' lawyer defends company before state commission

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The 'Ride the Ducks' tour business in Seattle is now under intense scrutiny by both state and federal investigators who are poring over every inch of the company’s operations.

On Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee said he would support any possible changes on the Aurora Bridge to improve safety. He also said he expects a thorough investigation of both the amphibious vehicles and how the entire business operates.

“We’ve all been touched by the tragedy,” he said. “These children are ours no matter what country they were from.”

One week ago, on Sept. 24, five international students from North Seattle College died when a Ride the Ducks vehicle collided with their charter bus on the Aurora Bridge.

Federal investigators said the front axle appeared to have been sheered off the amphibious vehicle but they don’t yet know if that’s the cause of the crash.

One big question centers around what the Seattle company knew about a service bulletin issued by Ride the Ducks International in 2013, which urged duck owners to shore up the vehicles' front axle. The duck that crashed on the Aurora Bridge never got the repair.

Pat Buchanan, one of the attorneys for the Ride the Ducks Seattle, wouldn’t say whether the company got that notice

In the wake of the crash, the company pledged to stop driving tourists over the Aurora Bridge if or when tours restart.

Inslee said he supports making safety improvements to the Aurora Bridge where the lanes are narrow and there is no center barrier to stop head-on crashes.

“We will be supporting the City of Seattle as they review operations on the Aurora Bridge to see if there are any safety improvements that can be made on the bridge,” he said.

Buchanan defended the company in front of the state Utilities and Transportation Commission during a hearing Thursday morning.

“All of the vehicles will be inspected,” said Buchanan. “There will be a thorough investigation with our cooperation to ensure and satisfy this commission that Ride the Ducks is operating safely.”

Officials said the scope of the investigation doesn’t stop at mechanical issues.

“I’m concerned about distracted driving,” said UTC Chairman David Danner. “The drivers of your vehicles not only have to drive the vehicles but also entertain the passengers.”

Listening to concerns about narrow lanes on the bridge and distracted drivers, Buchanan pledged full cooperation with investigators.

“If that includes those items to gain your satisfaction that it’s a safe operation, then in the broadest sense -- yes, absolutely,” she said.

Inslee said he’s confident state investigators will find out what went wrong.

“These things under state law are required to be inspected by the company every single day. So this is state law and whether that law was complied with will be one of the things the UTC will insist on getting to the bottom of,” Inslee added.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray told Q13 FOX News that his office is not ready to allow the duck vehicles to hit the streets.

“We have safety questions that need to be answered, both by the federal government and at the state level and then we can have a conversation about, if they operate, where they operate,” he said.