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Are Duck Boats Death Traps?

Posted On May 27, 2019

Duck boats have a history of serious safety issues that injure and kill passengers, pedestrians, and other motorists. These specialized vehicles used in the tourism industry are often refurbished military vehicles that are designed to operate on land and in the water. They have been linked to more than 40 deaths over the last two decades.

What are Duck Boats?

Duck boats are vehicles that are half boat and half car. Called DUKW vehicles, they were originally designed and built for the U.S. military during World War II. They were used to transport military supplies from ships directly onto land without the need for ship docks. After the war ended, the military retained ownership of many DUKW vehicles until the 1960s. Others were bought and refurbished by various industries for other purposes.

In 1946, the tourism industry launched its first duck boat tour in Wisconsin handing out yellow duck whistles to passengers so they could quack along the way. DUKW vehicles provided the perfect solution for amphibious tours as well as land tours for thousands of sightseeing passengers.

Duck Boat Fatalities

Over the past two decades, duck boat accidents have been linked to numerous injuries and the deaths of more than 40 people. Passenger fatalities have been reported in both amphibious and land accidents. The National Transportation Safety Board has issued numerous warnings about duck boats with overhead roofs or canopies that can trap passengers inside if the vehicle capsizes. Reports warn that passengers wearing life jackets become buoyant and get trapped against the canopy as the vehicle sinks. Many safety advocates refer to duck boats as “death traps” where passengers can drown.

  • 1999 – In Hot Springs, Arkansas, a duck boat sank on Lake Hamilton killing 13 passengers who drowned when the boat capsized and trapped passengers inside under water.
  • 1999 – In Branson, Missouri, 17 passengers drowned when a duck boat capsized and sank during a thunderstorm. Passengers were trapped inside by the boat’s roof and windows.
  • 2010 – In Philadelphia, 25 passengers were injured and two were killed when a stalled duck boat collided with a tug boat. The duck boat capsized and sank.
  • 2015 – In Seattle, 70 people were injured and five people were killed on a Seattle bridge when a duck boat crashed into a charter bus filled with passengers.

Should you or your loved one be the victim of a duck boat accident, call our Chicago personal injury lawyers for a free consultation. 

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