A Ride the Ducks boat full of passengers hit and killed a woman — who witnesses say was distracted by an iPad — as she crossed the street with her husband in Philadelphia's Chinatown neighborhood Friday afternoon.
The accident occurred at 11th and Arch around 5:20 p.m. and passengers — including young children — were forced to remain in the vehicle for nearly an hour after police covered the 68-year-old woman's body with a bright yellow tarp. She died of massive head injuries.
The woman and her husband were visiting the city from Texas, police said.
Ride the Ducks takes riders from the streets of Philadelphia into the water on sightseeing tours. The duck boat had a green light, according to police. Accident investigators plan to get a clearer picture of what happened from surveillance video and interviews with those nearby when the collision happened.
"She was looking at her iPad while crossing the street," said one woman who witnessed the incident, but asked not to be identified. "She got clipped by the duck boat originally and instead of stepping back, she held out her hand as if to say stop."
Joseph Kist, another witness, said the woman had her back to the vehicle when she was hit.
"She didn't know what was coming by," he said.
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Ride the Ducks is the same company which operated a boat that stalled in the Delaware River and was run down by a barge in 2010, sending two Hungarian students to their deaths.
The organization and tugboat company, K-Sea Transportation, agreed to pay $15 million dollars in 2012 to the families of those victims as part of a settlement. A $2 million fund was set up for the 18 surviving passengers.
Dramatic video released just days before the trial showed the duck boat being run over by the barge. The video revealed the deckhand on the Duck boat was texting shortly before the accident. Government investigators also determined Matthew Devlin, the pilot of the tug which was guiding the barge through the river, was also on his phone and distracted by a family member's illness.
Devlin pleaded guilty to misconduct of a ship operator causing death and was sentenced to a year in prison plus three years probation.
Attorney Bob Mongeluzzi, who represented victims and their families in the fatal Delaware River crash, said Friday the duck boat's design may make driving on land challenging.
"The design of the duck boat itself makes it extremely difficult to operate on land because it is cumbersome and the visibility for the operator is hampered because he has a large bow of the boat extended in front of him," he said.
In a statement about Friday's incident, Ride the Ducks offered thoughts and prayers to the victim's family and said they were cooperating with authorities.
"We will provide counseling for those affected by the accident and offer support wherever possible," the statement read in part.