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2 missing after barge hits duck boat

Sam Wood, Kristen A. Graham and Nathan Gorenstein, INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS

Updated: Wednesday, July 7, 2010, 9:02 PM

Police divers search the Delaware River after the duck boat crash earlier today. ( Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer )

Two tourists remain missing tonight after a city-owned barge hit an amphibious duck boat as it plied the Delaware River off Penns Landing.

Mourners comfort each other at services for Szabolcs Prem and Dora Schwendtner on Saturday. (Ed Hille / Staff Photographer)
Mourners comfort each other at services for Szabolcs Prem and Dora Schwendtner on Saturday. (Ed Hille / Staff Photographer)
A barge collides with a stalled duck boat Wednesday on the Delaware River in Philadelphia. The collision sent all 37 people aboard the smaller amphibious sightseeing boat overboard, leaving two passengers unaccounted for after a frantic rescue effort. (AP Photo / CBS3 KYW-TV)
The bodies of Hungarian tourists Dora Schwendtner, 16, left, and Szabolcs Prem, 20, were recovered Friday, July 9, 2010 in the Delaware River near the Walt Whitman Bridge, two days after a Ride the Ducks boat was struck by a barge.
The Ride the Ducks boat that was run over by a city-owned barge on Wednesday dangles above a salvage barge after being hoisted out of the Delaware River. (Clem Murray / Staff Photographer)
The Ride the Ducks boat that was run over by a city-owned barge on Wednesday dangles above a salvage barge after being hoisted out of the Delaware River. (Clem Murray / Staff Photographer)
The Ride the Duck amphibious craft that was struck by a city-owned barge Wednesday is raised from the river bottom by a salvage crane. (Clem Murray / Staff Photographer)
The duck boat sits on a salvage barge after being lifted from the bottom of the Delaware River. (Akira Suwa / Staff Photographer)
Watching the salvage operation of the Ride the Duck boat that was struck by a city-owned barge Wednesday is Kyle Burkhardt, crew member on the ill-fated vessel. (Clem Murray / Staff Photographer)
People watch Friday's salvage operation in the river off Penn's Landing. (Akira Suwa / Staff Photographer)
The Ride the Duck amphibious craft that was struck by a city-owned barge Wednesday is raised from the river bottom by a salvage crane. U.S. Coast Guard officials monitor the operation. (Clem Murray / Staff Photographer)
Philadelphia police marine unit boat and officers behind the barge where the crane sits, attempt to free up an object alleged to be a body of one of the two victims from the Duck Boat accident on the Delaware River. Photograph taken on Friday morning July 9, 2010. ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
A marine unit officer puts on a dive suit aboard their boat on Friday morning. They are in the process of attempting to dislodge was is claimed to the the body of a man underneath the barge being used to bring the sunken duck boat to the surface of the Delaware River. ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
Police marine unit boat and officers behind the barge where the crane sits, attempt to free up an object alleged to be a body of one of the two victims from the Duck Boat accident on the Delaware River. Photograph taken on Friday morning July 9, 2010. ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
The crane being used to bring the sunken duck boat makes its way to the location in the Delaware River mid morning July 7, 2010. ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
The crane to be used to raise the sunken duck boat makes its way to the site of the sinking on the Delaware River Friday morning. ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
The crane being used to bring the sunken duck boat makes its way to the location in the Delaware River mid morning. ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
The crane being used to bring the sunken duck boat makes its way to the location in the Delaware River mid morning July 7, 2010. ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
Philadelphia police marine unit on the Delaware River on Friday morning July 9, 2010. Police are still looking for the body of one passenger from a duck boat accident on Wednesday, July 7, 2010. ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
Philadelphia police marine unit on the Delaware River on Friday morning July 9, 2010. Police are still looking for the body of one passenger from a duck boat accident on Wednesday, July 7, 2010. ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
SB3 Brandon Mullinix chats with reporters aboard a MARK5 S.O.C. boat that took reporters and tourists on a brief cruise on the Delaware River. Prior to the boat ride, Senior Chief Charles Weaver of the U.S. Navy spoke at a press conference and talked about his team's rescue efforts in the duck boat crash on Wednesday, July 7, 2010. This picture was taken on Thursday afternoon, July 8, 2010. JONATHAN YU / Staff Photographer
Senior Chief Charles Weaver of the U.S. Navy interacts with reporters aboard a MARK5 S.O.C. boat that took reporters and tourists on a brief cruise on the Delaware River on Thursday, July 8, 2010. Prior to the boat ride, Weaver spoke at a press conference and talked about his team's rescue efforts in the duck boat crash on Wednesday, July 7, 2010. JONATHAN YU / Staff Photographer
Senior Chief Charles Weaver of the U.S. Navy spoke about his team's rescue efforts in Wednesday's duck boat crash during a press conference on Thursday morning, July 8, 2010. JONATHAN YU / Staff Photographer
Marshallton United Methodist Church in West Chester, Pa. was host to the two missing Duck Boat riders from Wednesday's accident who had been visiting from Hungary as part of a youth group trip. KRISTON J. BETHEL / Staff Photographer
The Marshallton United Methodist Church in Marshallton, Pa. where the Hungarian students who were involved with the Duck Boat accident were staying on a school trip. LAURENCE KESTERSON / Staff Photographer
Pastor Scott Widmer of Marshallton United Methodist Church reads a statement about the Duck Boat accident that left two members of Hungarian youth group missing. KRISTON J. BETHEL / Staff Photographer
Still frame from 6ABC showing the moment of impact the Delaware River between the barge "The Resource" and the duck boat July 7, 2010. Credit: 6ABC
Members of the Coast Guard look for two missing tour boat passengers on the Delaware River in Philadelphia, Thursday, July 8, 2010. The passengers' amphibious craft in which they were riding was struck and sunk by a barge Wednesday. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
A member of the Coast Guard holds a wallet fished from the water during a search for two missing tour boat passengers on the Delaware River in Philadelphia, Thursday, July 8, 2010. The passengers' amphibious craft in which they were riding was struck and sunk by a barge Wednesday. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
A member of the Coast Guard examines a wallet fished from the water during a search for two missing tour boat passengers on the Delaware River in Philadelphia, Thursday, July 8, 2010. The passengers' amphibious craft in which they were riding was struck and sunk by a barge Wednesday. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
A member of the Coast Guard examines a wallet fished from the water during a search for two missing tour boat passengers on the Delaware River in Philadelphia, Thursday, July 8, 2010. The passengers' amphibious craft in which they were riding was struck and sunk by a barge Wednesday. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Chris Herschend, president of Ride the Ducks, makes remarks during a news conference in Philadelphia, Thursday, July 8, 2010. An amphibious sightseeing boat that stalled in the Delaware River was knocked over by an oncoming barge Wednesday, spilling 37 people overboard and leaving two passengers unaccounted for after a frantic rescue effort. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Chris Herschend, president of Ride the Ducks, exits a news conference in Philadelphia, Thursday, July 8, 2010. An amphibious sightseeing boat that stalled in the Delaware River was knocked over by an oncoming barge Wednesday, spilling 37 people overboard and leaving two passengers unaccounted for after a frantic rescue effort. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Philadelphia Police Lt. Andrew Napoli, with the marine unit, describes the underwater conditions he battled while diving Wednesday at the site of the sinking of a Ride the Ducks boat in the Delaware River. He said it was "like diving with your eyes closed, it was so murky." Behind Napoli is U.S. Coast Guard captain Todd Gatlin. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer
U.S. Coast Guard captain Todd Gatlin is at the microphone with (from left) Philadelphia Deputy Police Commissioner William Blackburn, Philadelphia Police Lt. Andrew Napoli, with the marine unit, and U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Charles White standing behind. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer
A U.S. Coast Guard boat cruises the Delaware River at Penn's Landing Thursday morning, near where a Ride the Ducks boat and a barge being towed by a tug collided yesterday. Two tourists from Hungary are missing in the accident. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer
The National Transportation Safety Board arrives on the scene. At left is Robert Sumwalt, an NTSB board member, who will lead the investigation; Sean Dalton, special assistant to Sumwalt; and board member Mark Roseland. ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
Although the search for the missing passengers was suspended Wednesday night because of darkness, a Coast Guard boat remained on the scene overnight. ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
Thursday morning, a small coast guard boat makes its way along Penn's Landing, continuing the surface search. ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
Coast Guardsmen inspect the pier along Penn's Landing. ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
The surface search continues. Picture of Coast Guard boat on Delaware early Thursday morning as the search for two missing passengers of the Ride the Ducks tour boat involved in a collisions on the river on Wednesday, July 7, 2010. Photograph taken on Thursday, July 8, 2010. (Alejandro A. Alvarez / Philadelphia Daily News) DN
Divers search the the Delaware River on Wednesday night. ( April Saul / Staff Photographer )
Bystanders watch from Penn's Landing as police divers attempt to locate the sunken Duck Boat in the Delaware River. (Kriston J. Bethel / Staff Photographer)
A search vessel looks for two missing tour boat passengers on the Delaware River in view of the Walt Whitman Bridge, in Philadelphia, Thursday, July 8, 2010. The passengers' amphibious craft in which they were riding was struck and sunk by a barge Wednesday. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
A search vessel passes a marker for a sunken amphibious craft as it looks for two missing tour boat passengers on the Delaware River in Philadelphia, Thursday, July 8, 2010. The passengers' craft in which they were riding was struck and sunk by a barge Wednesday. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Search vessels look for two missing tour boat passengers on the Delaware River in view of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia, Thursday, July 8, 2010. The passengers' amphibious craft in which they were riding was struck and sunk by a barge Wednesday. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Passengers from a duck boat are seen in the Delaware River after their tourist boat carrying 37 people overturned in the Delaware River when a barge hit it, leaving two people unaccounted for and the extent of injuries unclear after a frantic rescue effort. (AP Photo/Terri Ronna)
Police divers search the Delaware River after the duck boat crash Wednesday afternoon. ( Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer )
A Philadelphia paramedic assists duck boat survivors after they were pulled from the Delaware River. (Gregg Kohl)
Rescue vessels are seen on the Delaware River after a barge collided with a tourist duck boat, the Coast Guard said. (Joseph Kaczmarek / AP)
Kevin Grace gives a thumbs up after returning to Penn's Landing from Hahnemann Hospital. Grace and his family were on a Duck Boat tour vehicle when it became disabled in the Delaware River and was struck by a tugboat. (Kriston J. Bethel / Staff Photographer)
Philadelphia Police boats and Navy Special Ops, which just happened to be in town for a demonstration, comb the Delaware River looking for survivors of the duck boat that sunk after being hit by a barge. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)
A Coast Guard rescue vessel sits in the middle of the Delaware River. The barge that hit a duck boat can be seen behind it. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)
Philadelphia firefighters search for passengers of a Ride the Ducks tour boat that collided with a barge this afternoon. (Clem Murray / Staff Photographer)
Marine units search the Delaware River for passengers of a Ride the Ducks tour boat that collided with a tugboat and barge. The barge is seen sitting idle in the middle of the river. (Clem Murray / Staff Photographer)
A Ride the Ducks tour boat comes around the bow of the barge The Resource while searching the river for a companion Ducks boat and its tourists after a collision. ( Clem Murray / Staff Photographer )
A Ride the Ducks tour boat searches in the middle of the Delaware River in front of the barge The Resource and the tugboat K-Sea, which collided with another Ducks boat around 2:30 p.m. today. Search and rescue operations were being conducted on the river for missing passengers. (Clem Murray / Staff Photographer)
A Ride the Ducks tour boat helps search the Delaware River for a companion boat and its tourists. (Clem Murray / Staff Photographer)
Unidentified people are escorted to an ambulance at the scene of a tourist boat accident on the Delaware River in Philadelphia. (AP Photo / Matt Rourke)
An unidentified person is escorted from the scene of a tourist boat accident on the Delaware River in Philadelphia on Wednesday. Coast Guard officials say a barge collided with a tourist duck boat. (AP Photo / Matt Rourke)
A passenger of the duck boat wrapped in a towel gets into an ambulance to accompany a family member that was taken out on a gurney. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)
Police divers search the Delaware River after the duck boat crash earlier today. ( Clem Murray / Staff Photographer )
One of the people on the duck boat when it crashed Thursday is put into a waiting ambulance and taken to hospital. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)
One of the duck boat's passengers arrives at the emergency entrance at Hahnemann University Hospital. (Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer)
Mayor Michael Nutter arrives on the scene at the Seaport Musem and is briefed by police on the scene about what happened. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)
Another passenger of the Ride the Ducks vessel that was struck by a barge and sank in the Delaware River is transferred from the Seaport Museum to an ambulance to be taken to hospital. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)
Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey rides a boat with police divers as they search for the sunken duck boat. ( Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer )
Passengers from the Ride the Ducks tourist vessel that was struck by a barge in the Delaware River are transferred to an ambulance. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)
Emergency rescue boats and ships and rafts were on the river looking for any passengers that had been on the duck boat that sank. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)
A young Ride the Ducks passenger is helped from an ambulance outside the emergency entrance at Hahnemann University Hospital. (Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer)
A Ride the Ducks passenger is wheeled into the emergency entrance at Hahnemann University Hospital. (Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer)
A duck boat crew member is pulled from the Delaware River where a tourist boat carrying 37 people overturned when a barge hit it, leaving two people unaccounted for and the extent of injuries unclear after a frantic rescue effort in Philadelphia, Wednesday, July 7, 2010. (AP Photo / Terri Ronna)
A young Ride the Ducks passenger is taken into the emergency entrance at Hahnemann University Hospital. (Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer)
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey (in white) is on the marine unit boat as police divers conduct search and recovery for two missing tourists of a Ride the Duck boat that collided with a barge in the Delaware. ( Clem Murray / Staff Photographer )
Mayor Nutter is at Penn's Landing along with Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey (left) and deputy commissioner Richard Ross (middle) as the Philadelphia marine unit begins diving to recover the bodies of two missing Rice the Duck tourists. ( Clem Murray / Staff Photographer )
A Philly.com reader sent in this photo: a view from Ben Franklin Bridge at 2:40 p.m.
Philadelphia_PA_Picture of Coast Guard boat on Delaware early Thursday morning as the search for two missing passengers of the Duck Boat tour boat involved in a collisions on the river on Wednesday, July 7, 2010. Photograph taken on Thursday, July 8, 2010. ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS DN
In this July 7, 2010 photo, a tourist boat from the Ride the Ducks tour company, foreground, not known to be related to Wednesday's collision that occurred between another amphibious craft and a barge on the Delaware River in Philadelphia, floats in front of a U.S. Coast Guard vessel. The Hungarian government says two missing tour boat passengers were part of a group of 15 from that country who had traveled to Philadelphia to take part in a language course. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Photo Gallery: Duck boat crash

Police divers were searching for a 16-year-old girl and a 20-year-old man, both tourists from Hungary, who were among 37 women and children plunged into the water.

The unaccounted for passengers are feared to have been caught in the wreckage of the duck boat which sank in 40-feet of water.

Thirty-five passengers survived with minor injuries and were recovered by police, fire, and Coast Guard vessels.

The crash, at 2:39 p.m., occurred off Columbus Boulevard near Chestnut Street. A Coast Guard Lt. Commander said there was no record of a distress call from the duck boat.

Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said the divers' search for the two missing passengers was impeded by the murky waters.

"They don't know if the bodies are inside the boat because so dark," said Ramsey. ""You can't see three inches in front of you."

Ramsey added that they would bring the boat up and search it, but he did not know how long that would take.

The duck boat - operated by Ride the Ducks - launched just south of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and encountered mechanical difficulties and a fire that forced it to shut down, said Police Department spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore.

"The boat was sitting on the water waiting for help," Vanore said.

The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the accident, Vanore said.

The 250-foot barge, named the Resource, was being pushed by a tug on its port side.

Witness Talmadge Robinson saw the duck boat stopped in the river. A nurse's assistant, Robinson said he was sitting ashore when he saw the barge approaching the immobile vehicle. "There was a really loud bang. The thing was a sitting duck." Robinson said he helped pull three children in life jackets out of the water.

He and others ashore grabbed emergency fire hoses and ropes lying on the dock and threw them towards the survivors. "People were screaming."

Robinson, from Philadelphia, said it appeared the tug had enough time to avoid the duck boat.

"I looked out and all of these kids were in the river." He said there were "a lot of kids."

"They were pretty scared. All they could say was 'thank you.' " said Robinson, who was still dressed in blue medical scrubs from his job.

Robinson said when uniformed police arrived they dived into the water to rescue the children. He said it took about 10 minutes for the children to slowly drift to within reach.

Other children were swimming toward the Camden side. They were not wearing life jackets, and were rescued by police.

Passengers on commercial vessels do not have to wear life jackets, according Chris Edmonston, director of boating safety at the Boat US Foundation.

Norman Civera, 41, said he witnessed the barge hit the duck boat.

"It hit pretty hard and pulled the boat under," Civera said. "It went straight under."

He saw passengers getting rescued from the water, he said. Some were screaming.

A large group of the duck boat tourists were from Hungary, including three children who were transported to Hahnemann University Hospital, a medic said.

Harry Burkhardt, a merchant marine captain who volunteers on the USS Olympia, got a brief description of what happened from his 18-year-old son Kyle Burhardt, a deckhand on the ill-fated duck boat.

"He called me after it happened to let me know he was safe," said Burkhardt, 53, of South Philadelphia. "My son was on that boat working as a deckhand!

"He said the barge ran over the duck boat and it sank," he said. "Everybody went into the water."

Burkhardt said his son and others were taken to the Independence Seaport Museum to give statements about what happened.

"They thought might have gotten everybody out of the water but they weren't sure," he said.

Burkhardt is president of the Friends of the Cruiser Olympia, a nonprofit which is trying to raise money for the preservation of the ship.

Witness Jason Tilghman said the duck boat had stopped in the river for about 5 to 10 minutes. A crew member screamed "jump!" to the passengers and jumped in himself. Four passengers leaped in after him before the barge crashed into the back of the duck boat, pushing it 150 feet north toward the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

Tilghman said the duck boat became dislodged and capsized.

Senes Deleon, 60, saw the collision from the Camden waterfront.

"I don't know how the guy driving the big boat no see the little boat," Deleon said.

The Captain of the Port of Philadelphia closed the river to all traffic between the Walt Whitman and Ben Franklin bridges until further notice.

Tourists board the duck boats, a popular tourist attraction, at Independence Mall. After touring Old City, the boats enter the river for a brief tour at a ramp just south of the Ben Franklin Bridge.

Ride the Ducks, which began operating in Philadelphia in 2003, runs 15 duck boats in the city. It launches its vessels from a ramp it built on property owned by the former Penn's Landing Corp.

Ride the Ducks is currently owned by the Herschend Family Entertainment company, which is located near Atlanta and operates Camden's Adventure Aquarium, the Dollywood theme park, as well as many water and adventure parks.

The company was founded in 1977, and operates about 90 vessels in several cities, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Memphis, Tenn., and Branson, Mo. It began its Philadelphia tours in 2003, using World War II-era DUKW landing craft.

According to the company's website, the vehicles used in Philadelphia are "based on the classic WWII DUKW amphibious design. Today, we build our vehicles from the ground up using the latest in marine design and safety."

It added the vehicles are "regularly inspected, tested & certified by the United States Coast Guard."

Duck boats have been involved in previous fatal accidents.

In June 2002, four people were killed in Ontario when the Lady Duck sank in the Ottawa River near Canada's Parliament.

In a 1999 accident, the Miss Majestic, sank and killed 13 passengers in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Ride the Ducks reported to the National Transportation Safety Board 11 accidents in 2006, 12 in 2007 and nine in 2008 – all of them minor, traffic-related incidents, such as fender-benders. None of the incidents happened on the water, and no injuries appear to have resulted. Figures for 2009 were not available.

The Inquirer will post more details as they become available.

Contact staff writer Sam Wood at 215-854-2443 or samwood@phillynews.com.

Inquirer staff writers Robert Moran, Miriam Hill, David O'Reilly, Kia Gregory, Marcia Gelbart, Edward Colimore, Jan Hefler, Darran Simon, Troy Graham, Joseph A. Gambardello, and Matt Flegenheimer contributed to this article.

Sam Wood, Kristen A. Graham and Nathan Gorenstein, INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS

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