'Ride the Ducks' Seattle to resume passenger service Friday

SEATTLE -- Ride the Ducks announced it will resume passenger service Friday morning in Seattle.

The service has been shut down since five people were killed in a crash last September on the Aurora Bridge.

The duck vehicles have been testing on land and water for several weeks without passengers.

“Our team has been working hard to prepare for our re-launch, and on behalf of more than 130 employees, we are thankful to be back on the road again,” said Brian Tracey, president and founder of RTDS. “We have carried more than 3 million passengers in just the last ten years and have been voted the No. 1 city tour for the last seven years in a row. We look forward to continuing to make Ride the Ducks the best city tour in Seattle.”

An outing for new international students at North Seattle College ended in tragedy when a bus they were on was struck Sept. 24 by an amphibious tour vehicle on the Aurora Bridge.

Five students were killed. Authorities have been looking into whether an axle failure on the repurposed military "duck boat" caused the crash.

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission last month lifted the ban on the Ride the Ducks tour business, allowing half of its fleet to get back on the streets of Seattle.

The UTC said  that although the company still has to fix violations, none of the vehicles posed an immediate threat to the public.

“We looked at every driver and every vehicle that this company employed,” said David Pratt, assistant director of the UTC's transportation safety division.

State inspectors said they painstakingly scrutinized Ride the Ducks of Seattle from top to bottom. Pratt said they usually sample about 25% during an inspection but Ride the Ducks went through a more significant screening due to September's deadly crash.

“We’ve addressed many of the problems; we are going to make sure we fix every one of them,” Tracey said.

Inspectors gave the company an unsatisfactory rating, revealing 442 violations.

“As the owner of Ride the Ducks, I take complete responsibility of the shortcomings,” Tracey said.

On the day of the crash, federal investigators say the front axle of an amphibious duck vehicle sheared off, sending it onto a collision course with a charter bus full of international students from North Seattle College. Five students who were on the bus died, and 43 other people were hospitalized.

“There isn’t a moment in the day that I don’t think about the people who were injured by the accident and the families that have lost loved ones,” Tracey said.

Tracey added that duck boats will now have two employees, extra mirrors and cameras. All the drivers will be retrained before they are allowed to get back on the streets. And drivers who work more than 12 hours a day will have to maintain log books.