Ride the Ducks has agreed to pay $222,000 to settle a complaint against the Seattle company stemming from the crash of a Duck tourist vehicle on the Aurora Bridge.
Ride the Ducks of Seattle has admitted to 463 safety violations and has agreed to pay $222,000 in penalties to settle a pending state complaint stemming from last September’s deadly crash of a Duck tourist vehicle on the Aurora Bridge.
The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) announced the proposed settlement agreement with the excursion company Thursday.
If approved by the commission’s three-member panel, the settlement would resolve the regulatory agency’s pending complaint over the firm’s discovered violations of motor-carrier safety laws and rules. In all, UTC investigators found 159 acute and critical safety violations and another 304 violations related to record-keeping.
Under the proposed settlement, the UTC has agreed to suspend $111,600 of fines related to the record-keeping violations on the condition that Ride the Ducks doesn’t violate any acute, critical or alcohol- and controlled-substance-testing requirements for the next two years.
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“The proposed penalty was assessed based on a formula that assigns greater weight to the acute and critical violations and lesser weight to the record-keeping violations,” the UTC announced in a news release Thursday.
A lawyer for Ride the Ducks said in a prepared statement she was “pleased” with the agreement.
“The settlement is fair, and appropriately places the emphasis on ensuring that Ride the Ducks vehicles are the safest commercial vehicles on the road,” attorney Pat Buchanan said.
As part of the proposed deal, Ride the Ducks must undergo follow-up compliance investigations and vehicle inspections this summer and again in 2017 and 2018 “to determine if the company is following its safety management plan and to verify compliance with state and federal safety requirements,” the UTC said.
The state and other agencies launched investigations of the excursion firm after one of its amphibious tourist vehicles lost control and plowed into a bus chartered by North Seattle College, as the vehicles motored across the Aurora Bridge in opposite directions Sept. 24. The crash killed five international students riding in the bus and injured dozens of other people.
Following the crash, the UTC, which regulates commercial charter buses and tourist vehicles statewide, suspended the company from operating its 20 tourist vehicles. The National Transportation Safety Board quickly determined in a preliminary report that a defective front axle on the Duck was the primary cause of the crash.
Ride the Ducks International of Atlanta, which refurbished the World War II-era Duck vehicle that crashed, had issued a service bulletin recommending the axle be repaired after selling the Duck to the Seattle firm, an independent company and Ducks licensee. The local excursion firm did not make the recommended axle fix, investigators determined.
In December, the UTC announced finding hundreds of violations and gave the firm an “unsatisfactory” rating. After Ride the Ducks filed a safety management plan to address the violations, the UTC approved allowing the company to return 10 of its 20 vehicles to service in January.
The company also agreed with the city of Seattle to use a different route for its oversized Ducks that would avoid them traveling over the narrow Aurora Bridge.
The company’s 10 “Truck Duck” vehicles now back in service are modern replicas of the vintage “Stretch Ducks,” such as the one that crashed. Meanwhile, the firm’s Stretch Ducks will remain suspended from operation “until the company has demonstrated, and the commission has determined, that those vehicles pose no immediate danger to public safety,” the UTC announced Thursday.
Since the crash, several victims have filed lawsuits against the Seattle and Atlanta Duck companies. Last week, three victims filed court papers seeking to also name the city and state as co-defendants, blaming each government for contributing to the crash by not addressing long-standing safety issues with the Aurora Bridge.
A judge is expected to determine sometime next week if the governments will be added to the three lawsuits, a lawyer for the victims said earlier this week.