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July 7, 2010

Two missing after barge hits Ride the Ducks tour boat

Crews of the Coast Guard, Philadelphia fire and police, New Jersey police and others were searching for two people after a collisionthis afternppn between a Ride the Ducks amphibious tour boat and a barge near Penn's Landing in Philadelphia.

Six other the passengers have injuries and have been taken to local hospitals.

The Coast Guard says that the collision occurred between a duck boat with 35 passengers and two crewmen and an approximately 250-foot barge at 2.39 p.m.on the Delaware River in about 10 feet of water.

The Coast Guard launched boat crews from Station Philadelphia and Aids to Navigation Team Philadelphia and an MH-65C Dolphin helicopter crew from Air Station Atlantic City, N.J., to rescue those in distress.

The Captain of the Port of Philadelphia closed the river to all traffic between the Walt Whitman and Ben Franklin bridges until further notice.

According to local media reports the duck boat was immobilized by a fire on board and was awaiting help when it was struck by the barge.

NBC Philadelphia quotes Philadelphia Police Lt. Frank Vanore as saying the Ride the Ducks boat was stalled in the water after a fire on board when the collision happened.

A statement on the Ride the Ducks web site said: "Our thoughts and prayers are with our guests and their families. We are attending to their needs first. In the interim, we have suspended our operations in Philadelphia."

Ride the Ducks describes itself as the nation's largest amphibious tour operator and amphibious vehicle manufacturer. Up until now it appears to have had a spotless safety record.

Its fleet exceeds 90 vehicles, carrying over 1,200,000 guests each year around the United States.

It says its Ducks carry "enough [life jackets] for a vehicle full of adults, children or a mix of both" and that it also has "a duckload of other modern safety equipment on board." Until today, it had never had to use any of them.

The company's Ducks are based on the classic WWII DUKW amphibious design. They are built at its own plant and are regularly inspected, tested and certified by the United States Coast Guard.

The newest model, the "Truck Duck," has been approved by the USCG Marine Safety Center for "Partially Protected Water" routes, a designation unattainable by standard WWII DUKWs in any configuration.

Ride the Ducks is owned by Herschend Family Entertainment (HFE) which owns and operates, or is a partner in, more than 20 amusement parks in about 10 states.


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