Duck boat incident: Barge hits tourist duck boat in Philly; 2 missing
Wednesday, July 7, 2010; 11:33 PM
PHILADELPHIA -- A duck boat, the amphibious sightseeing crafts that roam eastern seaboard cities, stalled in the Delaware River and was knocked over by an oncoming barge Wednesday, spilling 37 people overboard and leaving two passengers unaccounted for after a frantic rescue effort.
Ten people were sent to one hospital after the capsizing of the six-wheeled "duck boat," which offers tours of Philadelphia by water and land. Only minor injuries were reported. Witnesses said many passengers were wearing life vests as rescuers plucked them from the water.
Searchers spent hours looking for a 16-year-old girl and a 20-year-old man believed to have been aboard the vessel, police Lt. Frank Vanore said.
"It's remarkable that we're only looking for two people," Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Ross said.
The search was scaled back to two boats at nightfall.
The duck boat had driven into the water just after 2:30 p.m. and suffered a mechanical problem and a small fire, officials said. It was struck about 10 minutes later by a barge used to transport sludge, then sank.
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said divers found the duck boat in water about 50 feet deep. Vanore said crews would not attempt to recover it until Thursday at the earliest.
There were 35 passengers and two crew members aboard the boat, said Coast Guard Senior Chief Bud Holden. Coast Guard boats assisted by police and fire crews worked to rescue people from the water, he said. A spokeswoman for the duck boat company said 39 people were aboard, and the reason for the discrepancy wasn't clear.
"A barge went into us," one of the duck boat's passengers, Sandy Cohen, told WPVI-TV. "We had engine trouble, so we were just waiting for somebody else to come and tow us."
Bystanders along the waterfront screamed as the barge hit the boat, said a security guard who was patrolling the waterfront.
"I whirled around as the barge began to run over the duck boat," said Larry Waxmunski, a guard for the Delaware River Waterfront Corp. "After the barge hit it - it almost looked like slow motion - the duck boat began to turn over."