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Bus, tour vehicle collide in Seattle; 4 killed

Posted: 5:12 PM, Sep 24, 2015
Updated: 2015-09-25 00:12:43Z

A charter bus and amphibious tour vehicle collided on a busy Seattle bridge Thursday, killing four people and sending 44 to hospitals in a wreck that scattered crumpled metal and broken glass on the road.

Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins said 12 people were in critical condition, and many others had minor injuries. The crash also involved two passenger cars.

Mayor Ed Murray said foreign students were on the charter bus, and efforts were being made to contact consulates. He had no other details.

Witnesses described hearing a loud screech before the wreck and then seeing injured people lying on the pavement and wandering around in a daze.

Jahna Dyer, a registered nurse, said she was walking across the Aurora Avenue bridge when she came upon the scene, a mess of jumbled metal and glass.

Some victims were lying on the road, while others milled about seemingly in shock and falling down, she said.

Dyer jumped a railing separating the sidewalk from the roadway and helped stabilize an injured man's neck. She said she also helped a woman who had a cut lip and glass in her eye.

"She was holding my hand and saying thank you," she said.

One of the vehicles involved was an amphibious, military-style bus operated by a tour company called "Ride the Ducks." The tours are known for exuberant drivers and guides who play loud music and quack through megaphones as they lead tourists around the city.

Seattle Fire Lt. Sue Stangl said emergency crews were quick to arrive at the scene and encountered several victims.

"When (firefighters) arrived a lot of people were running at them, obviously saying people needed help," Stangl.

John Mundell said he was at the south end of the bridge when the crash occurred.

"We could hear the screech and twisted metal," he said. "It was surreal."

Mundell said he saw what appeared to be a few dozen people on the ground.

"I wanted to try to help," he said. "I felt helpless."

Harborview Medical Center spokeswoman Susan Gregg said the hospital expected to treat up to 10 of the most seriously injured victims, while others were being dispersed to other area hospitals.

The bridge was expected to be closed for hours as authorities investigated and cleared the wreckage, Stangl said.

The Aurora Avenue bridge carries Washington Highway 99, one of Seattle's two primary north-south arterials, over Lake Union. It has three lanes in each direction and no barrier separating the north and southbound lanes.

Similar amphibious tour vehicles have been involved in crashes elsewhere.

In July, the family of a woman struck and killed by an amphibious tourist boat in Philadelphia filed a wrongful-death lawsuit.

Attorneys for Elizabeth Karnicki's family allege the May 8 accident, which occurred during rush hour, was due in part to "huge blind spots" on the Ride The Ducks vehicle.

In 2010, a barge plowed into an amphibious vessel packed with tourists that had stalled in the Delaware River in Philadelphia.

The crash sent all 37 people on the duck boat into the river, but 16-year-old Dora Schwendtner and 20-year-old Szabolcs Prem never resurfaced. The Hungarians were visiting the United States through a church exchange program; their families filed wrongful-death lawsuits.

A tug operator, Matt Devlin, eventually pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the crash. Devlin acknowledged the accident was caused largely by his continuous use of a cellphone and laptop computer while he was steering the barge.