Duck Boat Capsizes Killing Young Child


This case involves a ‘duck boat’ accident in South Carolina. Before leaving the dock, the tour group was told that the boat would remain in designated “no-wake zones” to avoid choppy waters. About 40 minutes into the tour, the boat entered an area of open water to get a closer view of dolphins that had surfaced.  While the boat was approaching the dolphins, a larger high-speed boat passed through the area creating a barrage of rough 3-foot waves causing the boat to capsize. Several of the passengers were seriously injured and one 5-year-old child drowned.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please describe your experience in boat tour operations, specifically with duck boats.
  • 2. What precautions are taken to guarantee passenger safety?

Expert Witness Response E-162331

As a marine surveyor, marine engineer, retired USCG officer, USCG licensed master and marine safety consultant I am very familiar with DUKW boat stability, operations, and their inherent problems. This is a well-known problem with these vessels and this is not the first time this type of accident has happened. The group should not have entered a high-wake zone. The operator should have returned to the dock, found another dock if there was one closer, or run the vessel aground and had the passengers exit the vessel. The operator should have immediately told passengers to don their life jackets and requested assistance either via radio or cell phone. I have been retained as an expert on cases involving improperly handled tour boats and tour boat accidents.

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