Duck boats to move from the Delaware to the Schuylkill in March

Posted: October 02, 2010

Residents of Center City's west side will soon be able to experience the shrill of duck boats quacking through their neighborhoods again.

The noisy vessels are expected to be back in business starting in March, but this time they'll be touring the Schuylkill, Mayor Nutter and Ride the Ducks announced yesterday.

The vessels are expected to enter the Schuylkill below the Water Works on a ramp that will be built by Ride the Ducks, said Bob Salmon, vice president of marketing for the company that operates the boats.

The ramp will need city approval and will be paid for by Ride the Ducks, he said. It will either go over the bike/jogging path in the area, Salmon said, "or the bike path is going over the ramp."

The duck boats have been silent since July 7, when Duck 34, with 37 people on board, was hit by a city-owned sludge barge being pushed by a tugboat operated by a private contractor. The duck boat capsized and left dozens of passengers in the water fighting for their lives. Two Hungarian tourists, Dora Schwendtner, 16, and Szabolcs Prem, 20, didn't make it out alive.

The Hungarian victims' attorney, Bob Mongeluzzi, who has called for a moratorium on duck-boat service, opposed the decision.

"They moved their death cages from the Delaware to the Schuylkill," he said. Mongeluzzi maintains that the canopy on Duck 34 contributed to the deaths of the youths. "They haven't addressed their main defect," he said. "They still have canopies."

Salmon said the canopy issue relates to the 1999 Miss Majestic duck-boat accident in Hot Springs, Ark., that led to the deaths of 13 passengers, and not to Duck 34.

Nutter said in a news release issued jointly by the city and Ride the Ducks that the new route "will offer an interesting tour experience for Philadelphia's visitors and our residents."

"I am pleased the Ducks will resume their operations on the Schuylkill River, which is designated as a Pennsylvania Scenic River," he stated in the release.

According to a map on the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' website, however, the boats will not actually be on the part of the waterway that's designated a "scenic river." The designated corridor begins at the Fairmount Dam, or north of the duck-boat route area, according to the map.

Nonetheless, the altered route means more new sights and spectacular city views around the Art Museum, Salmon said.

"The Water Works has a great deal of history to it that visitors don't get a chance to see and we'll be able to show them that with our water tour," he said.

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