Bellair Charters and Airporter, carrier of Ride The Ducks tour bus, is under investigation as well as drivers and other vehicles involved, the Utilities and Transportation Commission or UTC announced in a statement. The safety regulating body says officials have opened an investigation into the accident in Aurora Bridge that killed four North Seattle College students and injured numerous other victims.
UTC will inspect all vehicles and diver records related to the crash to determine if the companies complied with state and federal safety regulations, the body said in the statement. UTC stressed that it conducted a comprehensive safety inspection of Ride the Ducks’ fleet, including driver qualifications, employee drug and alcohol testing, and vehicle maintenance records in December 2012. The company was issued a satisfactory rating. The regulating body added that Bellair Charters has also received a satisfactory rating from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in 2013.
Bellair Charters and Airporter also released an official statement saying the company is devastated and heartbroken by the fatalities. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the loved ones. We have a driver supervisor on the scene. An investigation is underway,” the company said in the statement.
Brad Volm, driver of one of the vehicles that collided with the Ride The Ducks bus, told The Seattle Times that he saw red fluid leaking from the bus’s front left tire. And then he saw another vehicle swerving; in the blink of an eye, there was head-on collision with the vehicle. He said he got out of his car and there were already bodies thrown out everywhere. “The scene was pretty gruesome,” he said.
Jesse Christenson remembered driving 100 yards from the back of the Ride the Ducks bus. There was another car in front of her. “What I saw was the Duck boat had its blinker on, trying to get into the left lane. Then all of a sudden the Duck boat turned sharper to the left,” she said.
“It looked like the wheel on the Duck bus broke off,” she added. “There was a wheel assembly in the road.”
A former driver for Ride the Ducks described to The Seattle Times the challenge involved in driving the bus on Aurora Bridge: “The Aurora Bridge in either direction is the scariest part of the trip because the lanes are so narrow and there is so much traffic. The driver is operating a 26,000-pound vehicle that is very wide with a max of 36 lives in your hands. As you approach the Aurora Bridge from the south, you are lining up how you are going to go over the bridge (hug the concrete on the right side or cheat over to the left, straight down the lane or straddle), you are telling tourists to get out their cameras for the Kodak moment while on the bridge and you are trying to queue the music to play ‘Come Fly With Me’ by Michael Buble.”
There are 16 patients being treated at Harborview Medical Center; 11 are being treated in intensive care unit – two in critical condition and nine in serious condition, according to the latest update from The Seattle Times. Blood donors are encouraged to visit www.bloodworksnw.org for instructions on how to donate for the victims.