Parents of Hungarian students killed in duck boat crash in Philly visit site, toss wreaths

By Maryclaire Dale, AP
Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Parents of duck boat victims see Pa. crash site

PHILADELPHIA — The parents of two Hungarian students killed last month when an amphibious tour boat crashed into another vessel visited the Philadelphia site Tuesday and were stunned to see a similar boat on the river.

The families of exchange students Szabolcs Prem, 20, and Dora Schwendtner, 16, tossed wreaths into the Delaware River during a brief visit to Penn’s Landing.

“It’s hard for us to believe that this could happen here,” Prem’s father, Sandor Prem of Mosonmagyarovar, said through a translator later in the day. “We had to see the spot … where this happened.”

Prem and Schwendtner, both only children, drowned when a huge city barge being pushed by a tow boat struck the stalled tour boat in the river’s busy shipping channel, sinking it. Thirty-five others aboard the so-called duck boat survived.

The National Transportation and Safety Board is preparing a preliminary report that could be ready by the end of the month. The first mate piloting the tug at the time of the crash has declined to be interviewed by the NTSB, invoking his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination.

The families spoke at a news conference held in the office of Philadelphia lawyer Robert Mongeluzzi, who filed suit on their behalf against the city, the operators of both vessels and others.

Ride the Ducks, the company that operated the boat, has suspended its amphibious tours in Philadelphia, but has been training crew on the water this week.

“When we threw flowers in for our children, we saw a duck boat pass in front of us. I thought it was terrible, just terrible,” Schwendtner’s mother, Aniko Takacs, said through the translator.

The Norcross, Ga.-based tour company said it was unaware of the planned visit.

“We can understand how upsetting this must have been for them. It was totally unintentional,” Ride the Ducks said in a statement. “If we knew the families were here, we would not have done this training.”

The parents described their children, who were touring the United States through a church-sponsored exchange program, as eager students of the world.

“She was waiting her whole life for this trip,” Takacs said.

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