Tug Captain in Fatal Duck Boat Crash Was on Cell Phone

A government report on last summer's fatal duck boat crash in Philadelphia reveals the man in command of the tug boat and barge that ran over the tourist vessel was dealing with a family emergency on his cell phone at the time of the collision.

The 3,400-page report released by the National Transportation Safety Board also discloses neither the crew on the duck boat nor its operators notified the Coast Guard, as required, that the vessel was adrift in the shipping channel before it was hit, writes the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Released today, the files cover a range of subjects that investigators have compiled since the July 7 incident, in which a tug boat operated by K-Sea Transportation Partners pushed an empty sludge barge owned by the City of Philadelphia into a duck boat that had stopped in a shipping channel after its captain saw smoke coming from the engine.

The accident killed two Hungarian tourists on board the amphibious vessel – Szabolcs Prem, 20, and Dora Schwendtner, 16.

One of the files shows the tug's mate was on the phone to his mother's home when the barge smashed into the duck boat that afternoon. It was one of 21 calls he made to or received from his parents or his wife in a little over two hours before the crash, the reports detail.

The mate chose to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights to remain silent to investigators, but later told a tug company official that while on duty "he had been made aware of a situation in which his young son had experienced a life-threatening emergency during a medical procedure taking place that day and that he had become consumed with dealing with this family crisis," the report says.

The report also says the mate was in command of the tug at the time and had not assigned a lookout.

THE NTSB report does not analyze finding as to the cause of the accident. It is expected a final report will be released this summer.

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