September 24 marks a year since the Aurora Bridge crash. That’s when a Ride the Ducks tourist vehicle broke an axle, crossed the center line and slammed into a bus of international students from North Seattle Community College. Five people died and dozens were injured.
A year later, the aftermath continues. A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board revealed that the company wasn't maintaining its hybrid boat vehicles like it was supposed to. However the final report still hasn’t been made public.
The crash also showed that when the Duck's axle broke, there was no structure on the bridge to prevent the vehicle from crossing the line and smashing into the student bus. Ducks vehicles no longer use the Aurora bridge, but the bridge itself remains largely unchanged.
“It’s too narrow and people go on it too fast,” said Karen Koehler, a lawyer for many of the people who are suing. “There’s nothing down the middle to stop people from crossing over.”
The company that runs Ride the Ducks has found its way to move on from the crash. It went back to business in January.
But many of the people affected by the crash are not moving on. Koehler said people are grieving and working on healing.
“Some people will never be able to walk normally again and some people will just always have the scars inside of them. It was very traumatic, very bloody, very catastrophic,” she said.
At North Seattle Community College a gathering is planned. Staff and students will dedicate a monument and a garden and remember how the crash changed lives.
KUOW contacted the Seattle Department of Transportation to ask what safety measures it was considering for the Aurora Bridge. A spokesman said the agency could not answer because lawsuits related to the crash are before the courts.
Later the agency released a statement saying “The state-owned Aurora Bridge historically has had low collision and injury rates compared to the remainder of the SR-99 Corridor and other areas of the city.”
It added that the city continues to explore options with the state for improving safety on the bridge.