Body of teen Hungarian tourist recovered from river after Pa. boat crash; 2nd body spotted

By Maryclaire Dale, AP
Friday, July 9, 2010

Body of tourist found in Pa. river; 2nd body seen

PHILADELPHIA — The body of one of two missing Hungarians was recovered Friday from the Delaware River near where a 250-foot barge collided with a stalled amphibious sightseeing boat. A second body was later spotted during salvage operations but has not yet been recovered.

A statement from Hungary’s foreign ministry said U.S. authorities had reported that they had recovered the body of a female Hungarian citizen missing since Wednesday’s accident.

Sixteen-year-old Dora Schwendtner was one of two missing passengers. The other, 20-year-old Szabolcs Prem, has not been found.

The girl’s body was recovered at around 4:45 a.m. near the Walt Whitman Bridge by members of the Philadelphia Fire Department, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Crystal Kneen. The bridge is down the river from the site of the collision.

As divers began preparations to haul the sunken boat from the water Friday morning, television cameras captured the image of a body floating face-down near the salvage site. The body surfaced briefly before submerging again.

Police did not immediately comment on whether it could be the body of the missing 20-year-old, but Lt. Frank Vanore confirmed they were searching for the body.

The Georgia company that owns the duck boats operation said Thursday it had followed safety recommendations following a 1999 sinking in Arkansas, but suspend its operations nationwide.

Schwendtner and Prem were among 13 Hungarian students, two Hungarian teachers, four U.S. students and three U.S. teachers on a tour hosted by Marshallton United Methodist Church in suburban Philadelphia.

Black flags were raised at the victims’ school and at city hall in their hometown Friday. School principal Karoly Hansagi told MTI that a candlelight vigil would be held Saturday night in memory of the students.

Salvage crews prepared to raise the sunken boat Friday, but the effort was put on hold while divers sought out the second body.

Tina Rosebrook of Davidson, N.C., told The Associated Press that she was briefly under the bow of the barge. She’d had time to get life jackets on her 10-year-old daughter and 12-year-old niece but not herself. She found a life jacket floating on the river when she surfaced.

Police rescue boats arrived and helped them out of the water almost as quickly as they’d been submerged.

On Thursday, National Transportation Safety Board Investigators dug into their efforts to reconstruct what went wrong. They expected to spend more than a week working in Philadelphia before heading back to Washington, D.C., to continue their investigation.

Board member Robert Sumwalt said the agency would look into the condition of the vessels and whether proper protocols were in place and were followed. The NTSB planned to interview those aboard the boats, listen to recordings of radio transmissions and study videos from cameras posted nearby by the City of Philadelphia and at least two television stations.

Ride the Ducks President Chris Herschend said Friday the duck boat captain, Gary Fox, told him that he put out the distress call on Channel 13, which is monitored by boaters but not recorded.

The Coast Guard has said it received a transmission over an emergency channel around the time of the collision, but no voices or other recognizable sounds could be discerned.

Sumwalt said the experience and condition of the two-member crew of the duck boat and the five-member crew of the tug would be checked out. He said tests showed none had been drinking. Drug test results were expected in about a week.

Inspection records for the sunken duck boat have been turned over to the NTSB.

Ride the Ducks, has been in Philadelphia since 2003. Passengers are driven on a tour of the Old City neighborhood near Independence Hall before riding into the Delaware River from a ramp south of the Ben Franklin Bridge.

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Patrick Walters and Randy Pennell in Philadelphia, Pablo Gorondi in Budapest, Hungary, and Joan Lowy in Washington.

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