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Duck boat builder, HFE Corp. named in suit

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Branson- and Norcross, Ga.-based Herschend Family Entertainment Corp., the parent company of Ride the Ducks of Philadelphia, Amphibious Vehicle Manufacturing LLC, the Branson-based duck boat manufacturer, have been named in a wrongful-death lawsuit filed Aug. 10.

The suit was filed following a fatal duck-boat crash July 7 on the Delaware River in Philadelphia that killed two Hungarian student-tourists, according to a news release from Philadelphia law firm Ronai & Ronai LLP.
 
The suit also names the following companies:  
  • Ride the Ducks of Philadelphia LLC;
  • East Brunswick, N.J.-based K-Sea Transportation Partners LP (NYSE: KSP), the owner-operator of Caribbean Sea, the tugboat and
  • The city of Philadelphia, owner of the barge.

Dora Schwendtner, 16, and Szabolcs Prem, 20, were killed when a 290-foot barge rammed the duck boat. The duck boat, which was filled with tourists, sank when it was struck.

Ride the Ducks International spokesman Bob Salmon was not available for comment at presstime.
Herschend Family Entertainment owns, operates and manages 24 themed properties in nine states, including Silver Dollar City in Branson, Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta, Adventure Aquarium in Camden, N.J., and Classic Cable Car Sightseeing in San Francisco. Herschend Family Entertainment, whose sites attract 14 million visitors a year, shares its headquarters in Branson and Atlanta.

Ride the Ducks operates locations in Branson, Boston, Philadelphia, Stone Mountain Park, Ga., San Francisco and Newport, Ken. (Cincinnati).

Herschend purchased Ride the Ducks in 2004, the release said.

Attorneys representing the students’ families outlined the lawsuit’s allegations at a news conference following the filing in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

The suits claims the duck boat failed to increase the buoyancy of the vessel per National Transportation Safety Board recommendations; operated in violation of NTSB recommendations by having a fixed canopy barring timely passenger escape in the event of a loss of buoyancy; failed to maintain basic safety equipment and failed to issue and require passengers wear floatation devices; operated outside Coast Guard-approved limit; and failed to summon emergency assistance.

It claims the tugboat failed to post a lookout and operated with a blind spot in busy shipping channel; failed to monitor proper emergency maritime channels and was deaf to the duck boat's Mayday calls; operated with an undermanned crew and instructed crew members to invoke the Fifth Amendment, depriving NTSB investigators of accident investigation information.[[In-content Ad]]

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