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Citing Deaths, Lawyer Calls For Ban Of Duck Boats

BOSTON (CBS) -- "How many deaths will it take for cities and organizations to wake up and ban the ducks?"

That's the question Philadelphia attorney Bob Mongaluzzi has been asking for years regarding duck boats, which he says are dangerous "both on land and on the water."

He spoke to WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Karen Twomey Monday, two days after 28-year-old Allison Warmuth was hit and killed by a Boston Duck Tours vehicle while riding on a scooter with a friend.

Allison Warmuth
Allison Warmuth. (Photo credit: Women's Lunch Place)

"They take up almost an entire lane of travel," Mongaluzzi said. "They're cumbersome. They have huge blind spots. They are built on chassis from the 1940s."

Mongaluzzi represents the families of three people killed by duck boats in Philadelphia--one pedestrian who was hit and killed in 2015, and two tourists who died when the duck boat they were riding on struck a barge in 2011.

He has calculated more than 20 duck boat-related deaths since 1999, and believes the design of the boats is an intrinsic safety flaw. He cites another incident last year, in which a duck boat accident on the Aurora Bridge in Seattle killed four and injured eight.

"The bow of a duck boat is like a spear, and literally pierced into the side of a bus, killing people," said Mongaluzzi. "Imagine if every vehicle on the road had a metal spear in the front. How many more people would be maimed and killed?"

Mongaluzzi said the first major duck boat tragedy occurred in Arkansas in 1999, when 13 people drowned because they were trapped beneath the canopy when a duck boat capsized.

Duck Boat Crash
Allison Warmuth's scooter underneath the duck boat after the crash April 30, 2016. (Image credit: Steve Delmonte/WBZ)

He also says having a driver double as a tour guide is an unsafe practice.

"Having an operator who is also a tour guide, telling jokes at the same time, is an enormous distraction," said Mongaluzzi. "We would never have an operator of a commercial bus or tractor-trailer do that."

The driver of the duck boat, Victor Tavares, has a lengthy driving record. The RMV has revoked his license while the fatal crash is investigated.

Boston Duck Tours issued this statement Monday afternoon about the safety of their operation:

For 22 years, the people of Boston have accepted Boston Duck Tours as part of the community. We value this unique relationship and take safety very seriously. Since 1994 we have carried over 10,000,000 guests. Our ConDUCKtors go through a rigorous training period of 8-10 weeks where they focus on the operation of our vehicles (both on land and on water) and safety procedures.  They must hold a Class B Commercial Drivers License with a passenger endorsement, a Boston Police Hackney Sightseeing license, a Cambridge Jitney license, a United States Coast Guard license and must be trained in first aid and CPR. Consistent with DOT regulations, all ConDUCKtors are enrolled in a random drug testing program. We have a full-time Safety Specialist on staff to oversee safety and licensing, and we have extensive safety procedures and protocols.  Our vehicles are inspected by both the US Coast Guard and the Department of Public Utilities annually. Our ConDUCKtors and staff of 18 full-time mechanics inspect the vehicles daily. Safety has always been our number one priority.

This statement follows a Saturday night statement from the company in which they said their thoughts and prayers were with Allison Warmuth's family.

During a Skype interview, Ryan Turcotte, Allison's friend, told WBZ, "She had a presence about her that I don't think many people get to have."

Allison's mother, Martha Warmuth, told the Boston Globe, "She was an incredible person. She could do just about anything."

At Women's Lunch Place where Allison used to volunteer in the kitchen, workers at the shelter choked up when recalling her.

"She was just this very bright, shining young girl with a beautiful smile and just a wonderful, positive outlook and just brought a lot of cheer with her," says Lisa Brown of Women's Lunch Place, "That's exactly the kind of thing we need."

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Karen Twomey reports

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