NTSB: Philadelphia duck boat that collided with barge radioed tug but got no response

Monday, July 12, 2010

NTSB: Pa. duck boat radioed tug, got no response

PHILADELPHIA — The crew of a stalled tourist boat said they got no response when they radioed a tugboat pushing a barge toward them, and a worker aboard the tugboat has invoked his right not to be interviewed about the fatal crash, federal authorities said Monday.

The collision last week capsized the tourist vessel, dumped 37 people overboard and killed two young Hungarians.

The tug’s crew included a master, a mate, an engineer and two deck hands, the National Transportation Safety Board said. The mate “exercised his Fifth Amendment right and refused to meet with investigators” over the weekend, the NTSB said.

One of the deck hands was asleep at the time at the time of the crash, but he was apparently not on duty, NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway told The Associated Press.

The duck boat’s two crew members both said their radio calls to the tug “received no response,” the NTSB said. The agency also interviewed others aboard different boats who said they recalled hearing the duck boat’s radio calls.

The tug, named The Caribbean Sea and operated by K-Sea Transportation Partners of East Brunswick, N.J., was pushing an empty city-owned barge.

Darrell Wilson, a spokesman for the company, declined to identify the mate who refused to be interviewed.

“If an individual chooses to take the Fifth Amendment, that’s fully their right,” Wilson said.

The company provided legal counsel to all five employees involved, but he did not immediately know the name of the lawyer representing the employee who refused to be interviewed. The company itself was cooperating fully with the probe, Wilson said.

The amphibious duck boats are a popular way for tourists to see the sights of Philadelphia from both land and water. The duck boat in Wednesday’s accident was in the water when an apparent mechanical problem left it without power and in the path of the barge.

Two Hungarians visiting Philadelphia as part of a language program, 20-year-old Szabolcs Prem and 16-year-old Dora Schwendtner, were missing for two days before their bodies were found.

Ten other passengers suffered minor injuries.

Wilson has also declined to say whether the crew had a lookout on the barge or whether their radar was working properly, citing the ongoing NTSB investigation.

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