Duckboat Disaster: At a Glance
July 7, 2010 and 35 passengers board Duck Boat 34 to experience historic Philadelphia via the quirky amphibious Ride the Ducks tour. Thirteen of the tourists are students with the Hungarian Bridge-Builders group, accompanied by seven local hosts and the students’ teachers. Just before 2 p.m., the duck boat, reportedly piloted into the water by an 18-year-old trainee, becomes a “sitting duck” on the Delaware River. There’s engine trouble and the captain, using duct tape, tries to fix the problem while anchored to the bottom some 60-feet below.
Meanwhile, a tugboat owned by K-Sea Transportation is pushing a nearly 300-foot long barge up river. The tug has no lookout on the barge itself, blindly navigating the commercial shipping lanes. It becomes apparent in the tug’s wheelhouse that the barge is slicing into the duck boat, though the crew can neither hear nor see the tragedy unfold.
The duck boat is defenseless and begins to sink immediately. The 35 passengers and two crew – some wearing life jackets – are terrified. Their escape is made more difficult by the vessel’s canvas canopy. A similar duck boat’s canopy was partly to blame in 1999 when the Miss Majestic duck boat sank on an Arkansas lake. Thirteen lost their lives.
On this day, on the Delaware River in Philadelphia, Dora Schwendtner and Szabolcs Prem are killed, the sole fatalities.