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July 07, 2015

Ride The Ducks sued by family of killed pedestrian

The family of a former college professor killed by a tourist duck boat in May brought a wrongful death lawsuit Tuesday against Ride the Ducks International and the city of Philadelphia, among others.

Elizabeth Karnicki was struck and killed May 8 by an amphibious Ride The Ducks vehicle while crossing the intersection at 11th and Arch streets in Chinatown.

The complaint, filed by Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett and Bendesky, alleges the vehicle had "huge blind spots" that its operator failed to manage. It also urges the vehicles be removed from service, claiming they are "not only unsafe on the water but they are clearly a lethal threat to pedestrians."

The law firm previously represented the families of two Hungarian teenagers who were killed five years ago when a barge collided with a duck boat on the Delaware River.

The complaint alleges the operator accelerated from a green light without seeing Karnicki, whose body was crushed by the front tires and the boat's undercarriage. It also alleges Ride The Ducks and the vehicle's maker, Amphibious Vehicle Manufacturing, were aware of the blind spots but did not redesign the boat for financial reasons.

The Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation, the parent company of Ride The Ducks, also are named as defendants in the lawsuit. The Karnicki family seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

Ride The Ducks released a statement saying its thoughts and prayers remain with the Karnicki family and acknowledging the company has offered counseling to guests and employees affected by the accident.

"Safety is of paramount importance at Ride The Ducks," the statement read. "Our equipment is regularly inspected to ensure a safe operation on land and water and our drivers are trained annually on safe driving procedures. Our driver, a retired commercial airline pilot, was not tasked with delivering the narration; he was accompanied by a narrator focused on delivering the tour to our guests.

"Witnesses interviewed by the police also stated that the decedent walked out against a red light, was distracted and the driver was not at fault. No citation was issued and the police indicated Ride The Ducks was not at fault. Ride The Ducks will continue to keep the safety of our guests, employees and the public the company’s top priority."

Mark McDonald, press secretary for Mayor Michael Nutter, said the city does not comment on pending litigation.