State regulators suspend operations of 'Ride the Ducks' tour company

SEATTLE (AP) — Washington state regulators have suspended the operations of a Seattle tour company after one of its amphibious vehicles was involved in a crash last week that killed five people and injured dozens.

The Utilities and Transportation Commission met in an emergency session Monday to keep the converted military vehicles off the streets pending inspections and a review of driver records. The company, Ride the Ducks of Seattle, says it agrees with the action.

The decision came a day after federal investigators announced that the duck boat involved in the crash didn't have an axle repair that was recommended two years ago.

The vehicle veered into an oncoming charter bus carrying international college students on a bridge last Thursday.

Investigators say its front left axle sheared off, but they're not sure whether that happened before or during the collision.

The following letter was released by transportation officials Monday:

Today, state transportation safety regulators held an emergency proceeding, suspending the operations of Ride the Ducks of Seattle, LLC. The suspension is effective immediately pending investigation and inspection of Ride the Ducks’ entire fleet of vehicles and drivers.

By Sept. 30, the Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) will issue a formal complaint against Ride the Ducks, and hold a hearing on the matter at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 1, in the UTC hearing room in Olympia.

UTC transportation staff have been investigating Ride the Ducks since the Aurora Bridge collision last Thursday, which resulted in the death of five people and injuries to dozens more.

Today, UTC Chairman David Danner said, “Our hearts go out to the families of all the victims, and we commend the first responders and medical professionals who came to the victims’ aid. Our action today is necessary to protect the public’s health, safety, and welfare.”

The UTC regulates the rates and services of charter-bus companies, household goods movers, telecommunications companies, investor-owned electric utilities, natural gas and water companies, garbage-collection haulers, commercial ferries, pipeline companies, and a low-level radioactive waste repository.

On Monday, Ride the Ducks International, LLC released a statement offering "prayers and profound" sympathy following the crash. RTDI said Ride the Ducks Seattle is independently owned, and purchased the duck that was involved in the accident in 2005.

RTDI said in 2013 it issued a service bulletin to Ride the Ducks Seattle regarding recommended front axle housing repair work. The group had "no reason to believe" that Seattle had not complied with the bulletin, RTDI officials said.

The company says the service bulletin applied to 57 duck boats, including some in Seattle; Philadelphia; Stone Mountain Park, Georgia; Branson, Missouri; and Newport, Kentucky.