4 Dead, Dozens Hurt In Bus Crash On Seattle's Aurora Bridge

UPDATE, 3;10 p.m.: A duck amphibious tour vehicle swerved into a charter bus carrying international students on the Aurora Bridge Thursday. At least four people died and dozens were injured, emergency officials said.

At least 44 people were taken to hospitals.

Harborview Medical Center said it had 17 patients, eight of them in critical condition.

UW Medicine tweeted that Northwest Hospital had received six men and one woman, ranging in age from 19 to 60. All were reported in satisfactory condition. The hospital expected one more patient.

Swedish Hospital said it had 16 patients ages 17 to 73 spread across three campuses. One was in critical condition.

UPDATE, 1:40 p.m.: A duck amphibious tour vehicle swerved into a charter bus on the Aurora Bridge Thursday, according to a witness involved in the accident. At least four people were killed and dozens injured, many of them international students aboard the charter bus.

The charter bus was southbound and the duck was northbound when the accident occurred just after 11 a.m.

"All of a sudden the duck bus swerved across our lane and hit into another tour bus," said Brad Volm, who was driving an SUV on a visit from Philadelphia. "At that point the pickup truck came around and I hit him square on."

"I got out of my car and there was just bodies just everywhere, just people lying in the street."

See a slideshow of crash images from seattlepi.com

North Seattle College said students and staff members from its International Program were on the charter bus. It said some of them were being taken to the campus, indicating they had not been seriously injured. A campuswide meeting was underway Thursday afternoon.

UPDATE, 1:20 p.m.: Four people are now confirmed dead in Thursday's collision of a charter bus and a duck amphibious tour vehicle on the Aurora Bridge, emergency officials said. Mayor Ed Murray said that some of the people on the charter bus were international students.

At least 44 people were injured.

Harborview Medical Center said it had received 14 patients: 12 in critical condition, one in serious condition and one in satisfactory condition. Thirty others were sent to other hospitals. 

UW Medicine tweeted that Northwest Hospital had received six men and one woman, ranging in age from 19 to 60. All were reported in satisfactory condition. The hospital expected one more patient.

Swedish Hospital said it had 16 patients ages 17 to 73 spread across three campuses. One was in critical condition.

"There's debris on all these people, there's cuts, people have cut lips," said Larry Smith from North Seattle, who came upon the accident scene. "Just huge trauma going on."

PREVIOUSLY:

At least two people were killed and nine critically injured when a tour bus and a “duck” amphibious tour vehicle collided on the Aurora Bridge about 11 a.m. Thursday, fire officials said.

Details were sketchy, but the Seattle Fire Department said on Twitter that at least 50 people were being evaluated for injuries. All victims have been extricated from the wreckage, fire officials said.

KOMO News reported that two witnesses said the duck swerved into the tour bus. One witness was aboard the duck, KOMO reported.

Photos from the scene showed the side of the tour bus torn open in the crash near the south end of the bridge as firefighters worked to pull victims from the wreckage. Other vehicles also were involved in the crash.

All lanes on Aurora Avenue North were blocked.

Seattle Fleet Began Operating in 1997

The website for Ride the Ducks of Seattle says the company began operations here in 1997 and its fleet now numbers 20 vehicles, which can drive on streets but also enter the water like a boat. They are often seen on Lake Union as the drivers deliver a humorous spiel about Seattle history and geography.

The company says it takes safety seriously.

"All our Captains hold a United States Coast Guard Master’s license, as well as a commercial driver’s license, are CPR and First Aid certified and must complete a rigorous training program before any paying-passengers board their Duck," the company website says. "Our fleet of DUKWs is annually inspected by the USCG and bi-annually by the DOT and our paperwork files are audited frequently by both organizations."

The six-wheel DUKW was developed during World War II for amphibious transport. It squats low in the water, but the passenger compartment rides high up on the pavement.

There is also a Ride The Ducks International, which operates ducks in four other cities in the U.S. and in Guam. That company's website says it provides duck vehicles to the Seattle operation and one in Boston.

Many of the duck vehicles operated today are modified designs from a Ride The Ducks International subsidiary. The modifications were Coast Guard-approved, the company said. It's not clear what version was involved in Thursday's accident.

Previous Accidents

In 2010, two people were killed and several injured when a Ride The Ducks vehicle full of tourists stalled and was run over by a barge on the Delaware River in Philadelphia. The National Transportation Safety Board attributed that accident to issues involving vehicle maintenance, failure to maintain an effective lookout and use of cell phones by crew members.

In May, also in Philadelphia, a pedestrian was struck and killed by a duck tour vehicle.

Ride The Ducks of Seattle has been involved in previous accidents. In July, a pedestrian was injured when he crossed against a light and was hit by a duck, the Seattle Times reported.

And a motorcyclist sued after a Ride The Ducks of Seattle vehicle ran over him in October 2011.

Non-fatal accidents in 2013 in Britain led to a safety crackdown on duck vehicles there.