Seattle, Washington | Aurora Bridge or also known as Highway 99, played host to a deadly crash scene on Friday morning, involving The Seattle Duck tour vehicle and a chartered tourist bus.  Witnesses reported seeing the vehicle veering into the other lane striking the larger bus, including two additional cars.

One media source reported that the driver may have had a mechanical issue with one of the front tires. Seattle PD was last investigating the closed roadway.  NTSB Investigators had arrived at the accident scene involving two commercial vehicles  and two civilian cars [were towed away shortly afterwards].

Four International college students were killed and over 50 were medically evaluated. Some were serious injuries. Patients needing additional medical attention were transported to Harborview Medical Center [HMC] and area hospitals.


Seattle Fire units were dispatched to the crash site located at the 3700 block of Auroran Avenue N or more pinpointed on the Aurora Bridge just above Lake Union.  It is known by locals where many serious accidents have occurred over the years. Seattle Fire Units began emptying the City around 1111 hours, as they responded. According to the City’s CAD system, these are the units that were dispatched:

  • Engines 2, 8, 9, 18, 20, 21, 22, 25, 34, 36, 41. [11 units]
  • Ladders 1, 4, 6, 8, 9, 10. [6 units]
  • Medics 10, 16, 18, 28, 31, 44 [Supervisor], 81, 82. [8 units]
  • Aid Units 5,  [1 unit]
  • Rescue Units:  L7, Rescue 1, Aid 14 [All Respond together] [3 units]
  • Command: B4 & 6, Deputy 1, Staff 10, Safety 2 [5 units]
  • Air 9 [1 unit]
  • Additional Units:  MCI1, PIO, MAB1 [3]

That is an impressive 38 units dispatched, deployed and were on scene within minutes. Mutual Aid arrived from the assistance of Shoreline Fire Department medics.


The Duck Tours of Seattle, is an independent and locally owned business by Brian Tracey, a longtime Seattle resident and original host of King5’s Evening Magazine.  Opening in 1997, Tracey saw a need for travel in the Lake Union area, waddling away with the ingenious idea of creating a tour Company as both entertaining and as a business adventure.  For the past 13 years, he has applied his many decades of talents, entrepreneurship skills and experience, making this one of the most successful Tour companies in the State.

Currently, he owns 20 DUKWS  with 120 employees, which include: 40 Captains, 9 highly skilled and heavy-duty mechanics and a great staff of compassionate individuals whose main focus is on entertainment and providing the best customer service as anyone can possibly provide or even match, making them a valuable commodity.

The “ride” is a 90-minute tour of Seattle from many tourist attractions in the downtown area where one stop to pick up passengers is either at the Space Needle or Westlake Center, both very busy with foot, motorized and vehicle traffic whizzing by. The website describes the tour waddles one hour on land and swims 30 minutes in water.

Prices range from $1 [infant] to $29 per person.

The business boasts their Award-Winning recognition for the last eight years as the “Best City Tour Company” by King5’s Evening Magazine.  This is Tracey’s former employer.


A DUKW is described as an amphibious landing craft developed by the U.S. Army during World War II to deliver cargo from ships at sea to the shore.  D for Built in 1942. U for Amphibious 2-ton truck. K for front wheel drive. W for rear wheel drive. And, therefore the name “Duck” was born.  The Army used these vehicles until the mid-60’s and have been known to be used by the Police Departments, Fire Departments and rescue units.

A local radio guest stated they are not the “exact” DUKW used in the war but they are similar in that they have the same round shape of the vehicle. They are said to be newer & more safe than original U.S. Army models made in the 40’s.

The Seafair Pirates currently have one they’ve named Moby Dick. You can see their DUKW in action annually when the Pirates “land” on Alki Beach [Seattle] in celebratory opening of iconic Seafair and it’s festivities.


There are 40 “Duck” Captains with the  Seattle tour company that carry a U.S. Coast Guard Master’s License, a Commercial Driver’s License [CDL], are CPR/First Aid certified and must pass a rigorous training program.

The boats are inspected by the USCG and bi-annually by the DOT.  They are frequently audited by both on a regular basis.

In a 2010 interview with a local TV news channel after the 2010 Delaware River Duck Tour fatality incident, Seattle Duck tour owner Brian Tracey stated:

“We are not related to the Philadelphia boat company. We are locally and independent run business here in Seattle.  Our boats are newer, safer and less than five years old as they are built on truck chassis.”

The Company prides itself on having an Operations manual that is used as a guideline by others around the Country.


In a NTSB investigative report on the sinking of the Miss Majestic vessel in 1999, the Safety Board researched available accident history on amphibious passenger vehicles. They found U.S. Coast Guard records show between March 6, 1991 to May 1, 1999, 18 of these vehicles had been involved in accidents including six [6] of them with some degree of flooding.  In December 1999, a meeting bringing operators, Coast Guard and technical experts together to discuss amphibious passenger vehicle safety.

September 23, 2015 – Aurora Ave N Bridge, Seattle [WA]

Media sources say Duck No 6 had not been inspected since 2003 – that’s 12 years ago. We took information from the Company’s website stating they have these vehicles inspected regularly. [Courtesy: Fox News –

August 2014 – Lake Delton – Wisconsin

A Ride the Duck tour vehicle collided with a truck on Lake Delton, Wisconsin’s County-A highway. At the time of the post, Investigators state it’s possible the truck with two [2] occupants may have crossed the center line hitting the amphibious passenger vehicle.

13 people were taken to nearby hospitals.  None of them were life-threatening. [ ]

September 29, 2013 – River Thames – London [England]


The UK Government was also investigating this incident. fire on board the DUKW amphibious vehicle Cleopatra on the River Thames, London, England. [ ]

30 passengers jumped overboard and were later rescued by Fire personnel, Police and other passing boats. [ ]

Investigation report dated December 2013. [ ]

The following Press Release was issued by Porcellio Manufacturing Ltd on 30 September 2013 in response to the fire on a London DUKW.

“A manufacturer of modern amphibious vehicles has warned that a blaze, which saw 30 passengers evacuated from a craft on The Thames yesterday (29 September), was “an accident waiting to happen.

This is the third accident in 2013 so far and follows two in Liverpool, in which two similar machines sank. In the wake of the news, the manufacturer is now urging authorities to withdraw the current certificates for all old crafts currently running tours in the UK, until they can be checked for compliance against the latest regulations.” – Managing Director Howard Slater of Porcello Mfg Ltd on SeaHorse Amphibious Passenger vehicles.

June 15, 2013 – Salthouse Dock – Liverpool [England]

“Wacker Quacker 1”

The UK Government is looking into the flooding and sinking of the DUKW amphibious vehicle Wacker Quacker 1 in Salthouse Dock, Liverpool, England, owned and operated by Yellow Duckmarine.

The Government issued a warning to Coast Guard and Maritime Agencies about DUKW passenger vehicles. [ ]

Approximately 31 passengers including children were on board at the time of the sinking. 27 patients treated and transported to area hospitals. No serious injuries or deaths reported.

October 2011 – Pike Street – Downtown Seattle [WA]

A motorcyclist was waiting at a stop light on Pike when it turned green. A DUKW aka Seattle Duck Tours bus was behind him, hit the gas pedal running over him and dragging him several yards.

The victim was seriously injured and later would file a lawsuit against the company. Media sources did not know what the settlement or status of that lawsuit was. [ ]

Around July 16, 2010 – Downtown Boston [MA]

Media reports of only nine [9] days later after the Philly accident, a DUKW lost its brakes on a Boston Highway [Charles Circle / Storrow Drive in downtown Boston], causing the amphibious passenger vehicle to smash into seven [7] cars, injuring five [5] people.

Boston Duck Tours is not owned by the Ride the Ducks but does provide “duck” tours.  [ ]

The cause was unknown at the time this post was published.

July 7, 2010 – Delaware River – Philadelphia [PA]

Philadelphia’s Duck Tour Captain collided with a barge that caused the vessel to run down the tourist vehicle causing all 37 customers to be dumped into Delaware River. The Duck sank. 2 student tourists were killed when they drowned. []

2 tourist families brought lawsuits against the company for both tourist deaths, settling for $17M.

December 8, 2001 – Lake Union – Seattle [WA]

“DUKW No. 1”

Seattle’s DUKW No. 1, a 33-foot amphibious passenger vehicle began taking on water five [5] minutes into its tour on Lake Union from one of the city’s neighboring boat launches. The bilge alarm began sounded and the Captain noticed water discharging, immediately headed back to shore after contacting their Dispatch Center.A passing boat safely assisted passengers on to their own vessel.

There were no injuries or deaths reported.

After being attempted to be towed across the lake by Harbor Patrol, the vessel sank in 25 feet of water. After being salvaged, Investigators found that there was a 4 1/2″ access plug that was missing.

The Driver testified he was in a hurry and didn’t have time to confirm all 55 items on the Safety Checklist had been checked. All vehicles were modified to have the hull plugs permanently sealed to prevent this from happening again. There was one [1] boat operator along with 11 passengers on tour at time of accident.

$100,000 vehicle damage.

September 18, 2000 – Milwaukee Harbor – Milwaukee [WI]

“The Minnow”

The Minnow, a 21-foot long Alvis Stalwart-type amphibious passenger vehicle began taking on water after disembarking 13 passengers. A failed bearing on the end of a propulsion impeller shaft contributed to the vessel sinking. [U.S. Coast Guard. ].

N0 injuries or deaths were reported.

$170,000 vehicle damage.

May 1, 1999 – Lake Hamilton – near Hot Springs [AR]

“Miss Majestic”

The Miss Majestic, a 31-foot amphibious passenger vehicle sank on Lake Hamilton near Hot Springs, Arkansas. 13 fatalities including 3 children out of 20 passengers and 2 crew members. Vehicle damage $100,000. A tear was located in the hull.

The company was supposed to have an alarm installed but never was. The root cause by investigators was that the DUKW the Company failed to repair and maintain the vehicle. [Source:  NTSB report


The National Transportation Safety Board made and adopted Safety Recommendations in May of 2002.  [PDF is 52 pages long. Here is the link –> ]


Seattle Firefighters, Medics, Command Staff, support staff and all mutual aid companies, including additional Medics from the Shoreline Fire Department responded quickly and swiftly to remove entrapped victims from all vehicles.  Can’t say enough great things about their heroics and how Seattle is one of the best Fire Departments in the Country.  Many will say they are doing what they were meant to do in life. We say it is definitely a calling of greatness in helping others.

Skilled with many hundreds if not logging thousands of hours becoming skillfully trained in many disciplines.  Their actions out on the roadway just went to prove how experienced they are, putting into action and compassionately removing injured victims.  To see one person deceased is hard on one’s soul and to see four with dozens and dozens of patients proves how great they are at their jobs and treating so many at once.

Great job Seattle Fire!


Many agencies responded upon the scene from the Seattle Police Department, Seattle Department of Transportation and Seattle Fire Department and working in unison with the Emergency Operations Center.  This day was hard for many physically on and off scene, directly and indirectly involved and to area hospitals for doing a great job in triage, treating and your compassionate care of every single injured person.

Coming together as one shows that Seattle can handle anything – major and minor.

Thank you for your Service, Commitment and Dedication in everything you do day in and day out.  You are highly admired for your bravery in going in and taking care of so many and respected for the great things you do everyday.  Your communities thank you!


We are deeply saddened by this tragedy in Seattle and we offer our sincere sympathies to those who were injured, to their loved ones and to those affected by today’s events. We are so sorry for your losses to your families, friends and to their communities they represented.

[c] 2015 The NW Fire Blog