Family sues after amphibious tour boat hits, kills woman

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The family of a woman struck and killed by an amphibious tourist boat on a street last spring has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit.

Attorneys for the family of Elizabeth Karnicki allege that the May 8 accident, which occurred during rush hour, was due in part to “huge blind spots” on the Ride The Ducks vehicle, a type of boat with wheels for sightseeing on waterways and on streets.

Lawyer Robert Mongeluzzi, whose firm won a $17 million settlement over a fatal duck boat accident on the Delaware River five years ago, said Tuesday that the vehicles should be banned from Philadelphia streets.

Ride The Ducks said in a statement that its “thoughts and prayers” remain with Karnicki’s family and “safety is of paramount importance.” But the company said no citation was issued “and the police indicated Ride The Ducks was not at fault.”

A police spokesman said at the time that witnesses reported that Karnicki, of Beaumont, Texas, crossed against a red light and “was walking while looking at an electronic device.”

The plaintiffs’ attorneys called the driver of the vehicle “more conversational tour guide than focused vehicle operator,” but the company said he was a retired commercial airline pilot who “was not tasked with delivering the narration” but was accompanied by a narrator who delivered the tour.

The lawsuit also names the city, among other defendants. A spokesman for the Philadelphia district attorney’s office declined to comment.

The lawsuit was filed on the fifth anniversary of the July 2010 accident on the Delaware River, in which a tugboat-guided barge slammed into and sank a duck boat, killing two Hungarian tourists. The tug pilot, who was on his cellphone at the time of the crash, was sentenced to a year in prison. The tour company and tug operator agreed to a $17 million settlement.

The duck boats did not operate tours for eight months after the crash. The tours usually involve exploring Philadelphia’s historic and museum districts and then heading down a ramp to splash into the Delaware River for city views.

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