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Pittsburgh's Just Ducky Tour fleet deemed safe by owner

Megan Guza
| Friday, July 20, 2018, 5:51 p.m.
A Just Ducky Tours duck boat exits the water in Pittsburgh.
Just Ducky Tours
A Just Ducky Tours duck boat exits the water in Pittsburgh.

Amphibious vehicles in the Pittsburgh-based Just Ducky Tours fleet use the same canopies safety leaders cited as a deadly impediment for riders escaping a sinking vessel, though Just Ducky owners Friday reiterated that their vessels are safe.

“In more than two decades of operation, Just Ducky Tours — a locally owned and operated business — has safely toured nearly 2 million passengers around the streets and rivers of Pittsburgh,” co-owner Christopher D’Addario said in a statement.

He said the company has “led the development of policies and procedures that are known as best practices in our industry.”

The statement comes a day after 17 people died when a Missouri duck boat caught in choppy waters and high winds sank in Table Rock Lake near Branson.

The canopies of the land- and water-enabled vessels were cited in a 2002 National Transportation Safety Board report that followed the 1999 sinking of Miss Majestic, an Arkansas duck boat that sank in Lake Hamilton, killing 13.

Investigators who recovered the Miss Majestic found seven dead passengers still inside — four of them pinned against the underside of the canopy roof, according to the NTSB report.

In that incident, survivors told investigators that the canopy was an impediment.

The report said the “metal framework on both sides of the passengers and the continuous canopy over their heads essentially caged them, making escape in the limited available time extremely difficult.”

Pittsburgh’s Just Ducky Tours use amphibious vehicles with canopies. The NTSB reached out to the Pittsburgh company and others as it wrote its 2002 report. Just Ducky Tours is one of several that responded to the board’s inquiry but did not indicate how it planned to keep vessels from sinking if they were to take on water.

D’Addario noted in his statement Friday that each Just Ducky vessel is driven by a Coast Guard-certified captain, and two “properly trained professionals” are aboard during each tour.

Safety advocates have sought improvements after more than 40 people have been killed in duck boat accidents since 1999, according to the Kansas City Star.

“Duck boats are death traps,” Andrew Duffy, an attorney whose law firm Philadelphia law firm handled litigation related to two fatal duck boat accidents there, told the newspaper. “They’re not fit for water or land because they are half car and half boat.”

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.

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