Philadelphia Duck Boat Accident Update

Last week, on July 8, 2010, a city-owned barge ran over and capsized a tour boat on the Delaware River in Philadelphia, spilling 37 people into the river. On board were a number of Hungarian student tourists, who had traveled here on a tour hosted by Marshallton United Methodist Church of West Chester, Pennsylvania. Two of the tourists – 16-year old Dora Schewendtner and 20-year old Szabolcs Prem – remained missing at the time of our first blog. Tragically, reports have now confirmed that both died in the waters of the Delaware, as their bodies were recovered late last week.

The National Transportation Safety Board began its into the accident with interviews of many of the duck boat survivors, along with the tour boat’s crew. According to the captain and deckhand, the duck boat sent radio calls to the tugboat – the Caribbean Sea – that was pulling the barge at the time of the accident, but the calls went unanswered.

On Saturday, the NTSB shifted the focus of its investigation to the tugboat and its 5-man crew. The NTSB has now interviewed 3 the crew – the master, an engineer, and a deckhand – although it has not yet released any information about their interviews. A second deckhand, who was asleep at the time of the accident, will not be interviewed, and reports surfaced today that the mate has declined to make any statement to the NTSB, instead invoking his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

This latest development in the story only casts greater suspicion on the tugboat and the barge. Immediately after the incident, several eye witnesses wondered why the tugboat and its barge were unable to avoid hitting the disabled tour boat in the river – given the ample time that the barge had to react and the fact that the accident occurred in broad daylight. Doug Dillon, a maritime safety expert with the Tri-state Maritime Safety Association in Camden, New Jersey, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the focus of the NTSB’s investigation into the tugboat would likely look into where the tugboat’s captain was positioned at the time of the accident, whether someone on the tugboat was properly monitoring for radio distress signals, and whether the tugboat had a properly positioned lookout.

If you or a loved one was involved in this tragic accident, or if you know someone who was hurt or affected by the accident, contact our firm at to discuss your legal options.