Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s office is opposing a state agency’s recommendation that Ride the Ducks be allowed to return to operations while addressing hundreds of safety violations found during a probe of the company after September’s deadly crash on the Aurora Bridge.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s office is opposing a state agency’s recommendation that Ride the Ducks be allowed to return to operations while addressing hundreds of safety violations found during a probe of the company following a deadly crash on the Aurora Bridge three months ago.
In a letter this week to the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC), a lawyer for Murray wrote the city “requests that Ride the Ducks’ vehicles be prohibited from returning to service in the city of Seattle until the company’s unsatisfactory safety rating is resolved.”
The letter added that the city wants “time to implement additional safety regulations or agreed upon conditions for Ride the Ducks to continue operations” before the state regulatory agency allows them to do so.
On Tuesday, the UTC issued the findings of a three-month investigation of the company that found it had violated 442 safety violations since its last review in late 2012. Most of the violations involved minor paperwork problems, but the agency also found violations to one acute and six critical regulations, leading to an “unsatisfactory rating” against Ride the Ducks.
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Still, the UTC recommended that the company be allowed to return 10 of its 20 amphibious Duck vehicles to service, noting commercial carrier vehicle firms that receive such unsatisfactory ratings typically are allowed to operate during a 45-day period given to fix such detected deficiencies.
The UTC’s three commissioners are expected to decide whether to allow the company to operate during a formal hearing set for Monday.
The UTC suspended the company’s operations four days after one of its Ducks plowed into a bus chartered by North Seattle College on the Aurora Bridge on Sept. 24. The crash killed five international students and injured dozens of other people. Since then, various agencies have been investigating the company. In a preliminary report, the National Transportation Safety Board determined that a defective axle on the Duck that crashed caused the accident.
Earlier this week, Brian Tracey, the owner of the company, told The Seattle Times that since the crash his company has taken or intends to take a number of additional safety measures, including no longer including the Aurora Bridge on the Ducks’ tour routes.
In its letter to the UTC, the mayor’s office said the alternative route proposed — over the Fremont Bridge — is “unacceptable” and “would pose even greater safety risks to the public” because there are more vulnerable pedestrians and bicyclists on that route.
The city’s letter likely will be filed into the UTC case docket regarding the Ducks, along with other public comments, UTC spokeswoman Amanda Maxwell said.
Ian Warner, the attorney for Murray, said the city has no standing in the case before the UTC, so can only request that commissioners consider the city’s position.
Warner added the city is now considering potential legislation to give it some authority over the Ducks in terms of routes and tour-guide operation.
Tracey also sent a response letter to the mayor’s office this week.
“We have been able to demonstrate that we have met that burden with the UTC staff, working alongside them during the exhaustive three-month investigation,” Tracey’s letter stated. “ We look forward to the opportunity to meet that same burden with the mayor.”