Newly released video of the 2010 deadly duck boat accident along the Delaware River that killed two passengers shows one of the ship’s crew members jumping off the vessel seconds before it crashed, and possibly texting on his cellphone moments before.
The video was released by attorneys for the parents of the two Hungarian students who were killed when a barge slammed into the tour boat near Philadelphia in July 2010. The students, 20-year-old Dora Schwendtner and 16-year-old Szabolcs Prem, drowned when they, along with more than three dozen fellow passengers, were thrown into the river’s waters.
The video’s release comes one week before a civil trial is scheduled to begin in the fatal accident. Wrongful death lawsuits have been filed by the two students’ families against K-Sea Transportation of East Brunswick, N.J., which operated the tugboat guiding the barge; Ride the Ducks of Norcross, Ga., which operated the tour boat; the city of Philadelphia, which owned the barge; and others, according to the Associated Press.
The video clip, part of the official record compiled by the National Transportation Safety Board in its own investigation, shows the impact of the 250-foot barge hitting the tour boat as it stood stalled in the Delaware River because of what the crew thought was an engine fire.
Attorneys representing the students’ families say the crew was ill-prepared for an emergency and did not act quickly enough in the moments after impact.
“You can see the people inside … nobody has had the opportunity to put their life preserver on,” said Robert Mongeluzzi, an attorney for the plaintiffs. “The way this duck boat was designed, once you turned off the ignition for a suspected fire, the radio and air horn didn’t work.”
The NTSB found in its 4,400-page report on the crash that the tour boat overheated on the 103-degree July day because a crew member left a radiator cap off, and the captain mistook the steam for an engine fire, and anchored the boat in the busy channel, according to the AP.
The tugboat’s pilot, Matthew Devlin of Catskill, N.Y., pleaded guilty in November to the maritime equivalent of an involuntary manslaughter charge and was sentenced to a year in prison. Prosecutors charged that Devlin was distracted by a family emergency and took cellphone calls in a part of the boat that blocked his view of the river.
K-Sea Transportation and the parent company of Ride the Ducks have not commented on the new video, citing the pending litigation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.