Bill calls for new rules for duck boats after fatal crash
BOSTON (AP) — The parents of a woman who died in a crash involving a duck boat urged state officials on Wednesday to require new safety rules for the amphibious sightseeing vessels.
Ivan and Martha Warmuth joined several lawmakers at the Statehouse to announce the filing of legislation that would prohibit duck boat drivers from simultaneously serving as narrator and tour guide for passengers. The bill would also mandate that the vehicles be equipped with blind-spot cameras and proximity sensors.
“We are convinced that if these two requirements had been in place, our daughter would be alive today,” Ivan Warmuth said.
Allison Warmuth, 28, was riding a scooter when she was struck and killed April 30 near Boston Common. A passenger on the scooter was injured.
The operator of the duck boat, Boston Duck Tours, said that safety was its top priority and that it had begun taking steps to address the concerns.
“We have already installed a new camera on each duck, which will complement the eight existing mirrors to address any blind spots,” the company said. “We also plan to add sensory equipment to the front and back of the vehicle in the near term.”
The statement did not directly address the call for separating the duties of driver and tour guide. Boston Duck Tours said it was awaiting the conclusion of a police investigation of the fatal accident before determining if additional steps were needed.
A Boston police spokeswoman said the investigation remained open. No charges have been filed.
Seattle imposed new rules, including separate tour guides, after a duck boat crashed into a charter bus last year, killing five passengers on the bus.
Ivan Warmuth said without the rules the duck boat driver is trying to do too many things at once.
“The duck boat driver is responsible for operating the vehicle while at the same time conducting a history tour, ensuring passengers remain safely seated and entertaining the passengers,” he said. “Surely this leads to distracted driving.”
The Warmuths called Allison’s death an unspeakable tragedy for their family. Their daughter, a health insurance underwriter, was planning to start an MBA program and often volunteered at a facility that assists homeless women.
The couple began researching duck boat regulations across the country after her death.
“Safety of the people on the streets is the most important thing to us right now,” Martha Warmuth said. “We can’t get our daughter back.”
With the legislative session scheduled to end July 31 and dozens of major bills still pending, it’s unclear if lawmakers will have a chance to act on the measure filed Wednesday.
The bill’s chief sponsor, Sen. William Brownsberger, said he hoped it would receive swift attention and stressed that his goal was not to stop the popular tourist activity.
“There is no reason to believe that (duck boats) can’t be a perfectly safe presence in the streets of Boston and in other places around the state,” the Belmont Democrat said.