'Ride the Duck' CEO: Ducks will be 'safer than any other vehicle'

Ever since that fatal day, Ride the Ducks Seattle not only expected scrutiny, it welcomed it.

SEATTLE -- Ever since that fatal day, Ride the Ducks Seattle not only expected scrutiny, it welcomed it.

Now nearly three months after the deadly crash and after handing over 19 years' worth of safety records, procedures and e-mails to investigators, Ride the Ducks wants a second chance.

In an exclusive TV interview, Ducks CEO Brian Tracey said without another chance soon, the Seattle tourism institution may have to shutter its doors for good.

"All we can do is do everything humanly possible to make sure this never happens again," Tracey said.

But that's up to the state's UTC commissioners. During a hearing next week, they will decide whether Ride the Ducks will get a second chance.

"If they don't allow us or postpone the decision then we probably will go out of business," Tracey said.

Since the crash, the state suspended the Duck's operations and launched its own investigation, inspecting all 20 amphibious vehicles in the fleet and every safety-related record and procedure in the company's 19-year history, according to Tracey.

The CEO said most of his 130 employees have been laid off since the crash and are terrified the company may never reopen.

"I can't even begin to describe that, it's not only about, you know when you put your life's work into something and you hire great people, you don't even want to think about that happening, you can't," said a shaken and teary Tracey from a conference room inside the Ducks Nest, a Ballard warehouse where the Ride the Ducks fleet has sat motionless since the September crash.

Tracey says that deadly day was the first fatal crash in Ride the Ducks Seattle's 19 year history of driving 1.5 million miles with 3 million passengers.

"We are just devastated by the fact that people were injured, hurt, and lost their lives in this accident," Tracey said. "There isn't a moment we...don't think about that."

He insisted prior to the crash, his company had an 'exemplary' safety record, often going beyond state requirements. Instead of one inspection, Tracey said the Ducks get two daily inspections from bow to stern, first by a mechanic, then the captain before hitting the road or water.

"We are checking every component," said Ducks Director of Safety Moti Krauthamer as he walked around Duck No. 18 and went through an 'exhaustive' inspection checklist.

In the future, passengers will notice a big change on board: Captains will no longer run the tours, a second crew member will.

A new seat has been added next to the captain's chair for a tour guide to interact with guests instead of the captain.

"The tour guide can sit here, plug in microphone here, and then they're 'Welcome to Ride the Ducks' -- they're set," said Krauthamer.

Each duck is now equipped with more cameras and GPS and all future tours will no longer include the narrow Aurora Bridge.

"I promise there won't be a Duck on the road that isn't actually safer than any other vehicle on the road right now," said Tracey.

He said every day since the crash he thinks of two things; the victims and safety.

How it happened is still not clear. An NTSB investigation can take up to 18 months and Tracey's attorney won't let him talk about the crash until the investigation is completed.

"Sometimes terrible things happen to good people, you know, we are trying to do everything we can do to try and go above and beyond what we've done before and hopefully this kind of thing will never happen again," Tracey said.

If the company gets the UTC's approval to operate, Tracey said he plans to put 10 of the 20 Ducks back into service.

Those Ducks, called 'Truck Ducks' are newer and different than the vessel that crashed.
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