Ride the Ducks suspends operations in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The operator of the popular Philadelphia duck boat tours has suspended operations in the city "indefinitely," the company said.

Branson, Missouri-based Ride the Ducks announced on its website Wednesday that it made the move due to financial reasons.

"Due to circumstances outside of our control including a 330% increase in our insurance premiums, continued operations in Philadelphia are not financially feasible at this time," the company said in a statement.

Tourists found out when they came to buy tickets on Thursday.

"We got here Monday, and they were operating yesterday and we thought, 'Oh well, we'll do those tomorrow,' " said Gail Tognarelli from Troy, Missouri. "Today's our last day here, and we're very disappointed."

Ride the Ducks, which uses World War II amphibious vehicles to show tourists the sights on land and water, began operations in the city in 2003.

The company's statement did not address accidents involving duck boats that have occurred in Philadelphia.

In May 2015, a duck boat struck and killed a 68-year-old Texas woman who was crossing the street. And in July 2010, a tugboat-guided barge struck a duck boat on the Delaware River, killing two Hungarian tourists. The tug pilot, who was talking on his cellphone at the time, was sentenced to a year in prison. The duck boats did not operate for eight months afterward.

Powerhouse lawyer Robert J. Mongeluzzi represents the victim's families in both those cases.

"A small number of duck boats have killed eight people in America in the last five years. Their insurance rates deserve to go up because they are dangerous on land, dangerous on the sea, and they kill pedestrians and tourists," said Mongeluzzi, civil attorney.

"Through our extensive experience representing victims of duck boat disasters we've determined those vehicles are fatally flawed," Mongeluzzi said in a statement. "They're death traps on the water due to their hazardous canopy design and on land they are engineered to restrict the peripheral vision of the operator, creating significant blind spots."

A tourism rival of the duck boats says he has always been Leary of their safety.

"I worried about the safety. I actually let me kids talk me into doing it. And I explained to them, even though I got an Army hat on, I'm actually Navy, and I'm all about safety," said George Gregory, Big Bus Tours. "The fact that we couldn't have on the life jackets when I took it, that was a problem for me."

Company officials did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

On its website, Ride the Ducks bills itself as "the nation's largest amphibious tour operator and licensor," with nearly 100 vehicles currently in use around the U.S. and Guam.

In its statement, the company said it was working with the 42 full- and part-time employees in Philadelphia, offering severance and outplacement assistance.
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