Jury awards $123 million to victims of Seattle duck boat crash

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Ride the Ducks was found at fault for crash. Screen grab taken from media footage after the crash.

Ride the Ducks was found at fault for crash. Screen grab taken from media footage after the crash.

A jury has awarded about $123 million to the victims and families of a fatal 2015 crash between a duck boat and a tour bus in Seattle.

Five were killed and more than 60 were injured in the Sept. 24, 2015 crash, which called into question whether median barriers were needed on the bridge.

The blame lies with the Missouri-based company that made the World War II-era vehicle and its operator, Ride the Ducks Seattle, which failed to act on a critical warning about a defect in the axle, said Steve Puz, senior counsel with the Attorney General’s Office, according to the Seattle Times.

The 2016 lawsuit claims that Ride the Ducks Seattle, a locally owned Ducks licensee, and Ride the Ducks International, as well as the city and state, all bear some responsibility for the fatal crash.

The suit also alleges that Ride the Ducks International, which refurbished the Duck vehicle that crashed, had issued a service bulletin to the Seattle operator recommending the axle be repaired on the vehicle. The local excursion firm did not make the recommended axle fix, investigators determined.

Ride the Ducks made headlines in Branson, Mo., when 17 people died after a duck boat sank in Table Rock Lake. The captain in that accident was charged with manslaughter.

After the 2015 crash in Washington, the state Utilities and Transportation Committee, which regulates commercial charter buses and tourist vehicles statewide, suspended the local company from operating its 20 tourist vehicles and also found that Ride the Ducks of Seattle had 463 safety violations.

The Seattle company admitted to the 159 critical safety violations and 304 record-keeping violations two years ago and agreed to pay $222,000 in penalties to settle the state complaint.

The manufacturer of the amphibious vehicle agreed to pay up to $1 million in civil fines in connection with the Seattle crash for violating federal safety regulations, U.S. transportation officials said. 

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