Duck boat operator to increase staff on all vehicles after traffic death
BOSTON >> A company that operates duck boat tours said Monday it would separate the responsibilities of driver and tour guide, a decision that follows the death of a young woman who was struck by one of the popular amphibious sightseeing vehicles.
Beginning next year, Boston Duck Tours will have two staffers on all duck boats, one driving the vehicle while the other narrates the tour. The company said the decision was made voluntarily and that it had informed city and state officials of the move.
Allison Warmuth, 28, was driving a motor scooter near the Boston Common in April when she was struck and killed by the duck boat. A passenger on the scooter was injured.
The accident prompted the filing of legislation in Massachusetts that would prohibit duck boat drivers from simultaneously serving as narrator and tour guide on the vehicles.
Warmuth's parents, Ivan and Martha Warmuth, came to the Statehouse to push for passage of the bill, which would also require duck boats to be equipped with blind-spot cameras and proximity sensors.
"We're glad to see Boston Duck Tours taking action to improve safety, but we believe it would be possible to add a second person to narrate this season," Ivan Warmuth told the Associated Press.
The company said it planned to hire and train 40-50 new employees and implement the changes when its 2017 season begins in March. The current season runs through November.
"We are eager to move forward with this new staffing plan," said Cindy Brown, chief executive of Boston Duck Tours, in a statement. "There is a lot of work to do. Boston is our home; we recognize what a privilege it is to serve residents and visitors and it has always been our commitment to do so utilizing best-in-class safety practices."
The company also said it had installed exterior-view cameras on all vehicles and was in the process of putting sensors in the front and back of the vehicles to alert drivers to object in close proximity.
The Warmuths said they would continue to push for a vote on the bill to ensure that permanent regulations are in place for all duck boat operators.
The couple has said they believe their daughter would still be alive if the proposed rules had been in place at the time of the accident.
"We have seen how unsafe the situation is," Martha Warmuth said Monday. "We would like to see the streets safer for the people of Boston."
The death of Allison Warmuth remains under investigation by Boston police and no charges have been filed.
Seattle imposed new rules, including separate tour guides, after a duck boat crashed into a charter bus last year, killing five passengers on the bus.
"I certainly think that in any urban environment where these vehicles are being operated there should be somebody behind the wheel that has nothing but safety on his or her mind," said Democratic Sen. William Brownsberger, the chief sponsor of the Massachusetts legislation.