Settlement reached in fatal duck boat accident

Pictured: Szabolcs Prem and Dora Schwendtner

May 9, 2012 3:49:12 PM PDT
A settlement has been reached in the duck boat civil trial that will see the families of the two Hungarian students killed in the crash split $15-million.

The settlement follows a day of face to face bargaining, a day after the trial was suspended to allow the two sides to work things out.

The victims' families will split $15-million, but their lawyer says it's a hollow victory.

"No amount of money can replace their priceless only children," attorney Robert Mongeluzzi said.

16-year-old Dora Schwendtner and 20-year-old Szabolcs Prem were killed in the accident almost two years ago.

They came here from Hungary with a youth group on tour.

The duck boat had stalled in the shipping lane of the Delaware River.

It was run down by a barge being pushed by a tug boat operator who was distracted by phone calls and a computer.

Today, the tug company, K-Sea Transportation, and the Ride the Ducks company agreed to the settlement: $15-million for the families of the two victims and $2-million for the survivors.

The companies had initially argued that maritime law limited liability to $1.8-million, the value of the two vessels.

The victims' parents came here from Hungary for the first two days of the trial.

They are on their way home now, unaware of the terms of the settlement.

"They have told us the amount of money was not important, what they wanted to do was to bring a change," attorney Peter Ronai said.

The lawyers for the families say they were consoled by the fact that their children died trying to save others.

Video shows Dora throwing her life jacket to a crew member who had jumped into the water as the barge approached.

The lawyers say the families are hoping their lawsuit leads to safety upgrades that will save other lives.

But, they say the duck boats remain potential death traps.

"Duck Boats with canopies are death traps. If you wear your life preserver and it goes down, you'll get trapped underneath the canopy. If you don't wear your life preserver when it goes down, you're likely to drown," Mongeluzzi said

The families have one last request from the city of Philadelphia. They'd like to see a small memorial to their children, perhaps a bench at Penn's Landing - a reminder of what they've lost.