Witnesses to last July's accident cited several problems with Ride the Ducks. Before entering the river, the two-person crew did not demonstrate physically how to put on a vest. Passengers from Hungary said they didn't understand what they were being told.
State law doesn't require passengers to wear the life vests at all times. None of the passengers had put on a life vest correctly when the tour vehicle capsized.
Several passengers said they were pulled underwater by the roof as the vehicle sank, but managed to escape. In Arkansas in 1999, 13 people drowned when a similar boat's canopy trapped them underwater.
The risks inherent in operating these tours on the Delaware was a prime reason the city tried to move the operation to the Schuylkill. That option later was deemed impractical.
Few tourists will be privy to the accident's details or the safety questions it raised. But Ride the Ducks officials say they have addressed the safety concerns.
Ride the Ducks President Chris Herschend said the river portion of the ride will be shorter, and the route closer to shore. He said the company will post a rescue boat at the river ramp at all times.
Each tour vehicle will have more communications equipment; crews will show how to put on life jackets. And the vehicles will not enter the river if any large commercial vessel is within one-half mile. Coast Guard Capt. Todd Gatlin said the new plan addressed his agency's concerns.
Herschend said his company operated more than 40,000 trips in Philadelphia without incident before the fatal accident.
But the sinking last year showed what can happen when a plan goes wrong, and the potential risks for unwitting passengers on this commercial venture. In spite of the extra precautions, the Coast Guard and the city should not allow the river tours to resume.