The NTSB and the Duck Boat Accident

(in English, ausnahmsweise*)

Since it runs up down in the news media here in the US and there is such an easy engineering solution that could have prevented the death of the passengers on board the Duck Boat in Missouri, please read and act:

As an engineer my first thought in seeing the news was: How could this have been prevented? Of course one way is not going into the water at those conditions at first hand. But that is a different issue that will not be discussed here. Since the operator stated (to my knowledge) that they would operate under the same conditions in the same way, there obviously is a need to increase the safety for the passengers.

What really shocked me was, that wearing a life vest was a sure death commitment under the current design of the bus/boat. Wearing an inflated jacket pushes people upwards underneath the solid structure of the roof even faster from where there is no escape.

Such the easy and with as little money as possible to implement and also successful solution is to divide the roof into to two overlapping (maybe about three inches wide) parts, lengthwise. The roof should be slightly tilted towards the back to even more enhance any possible rainwater to drain off without getting onto the passengers.


Similar to having emergency gravity fed gear activation in airplanes, this would function accordingly to that: If water enters from below (when the boat is sinking) the water would push the two halves of the roof open and passengers would also be softly pushed towards the safe open water surface and could breathe again.

In addition there could be a manually operated lever, that could be activated by the captain once this deems to be necessary – a lever that opens up the roof manually.

Such the duck boats – which seem to be liked by tourists a lot and operators who want to keep their business – could still be operating in the future with only minor changes by the manufacturer of the boat.

Yesterday I went to the NTSB stand at Oshkosh and explained all of this to the NTSB guys standing there. They found it a „good idea“ which is a rude understatement and told me if they would mention it they will distribute it as their own idea.

Really? Is that how NTSB is working? A federal agency that should be bound to finding the truth and the causes? There used to be an own tent for NTSB in Oshkosh, with lots of information and findings about past accidents, with people who had the knowledge to prevent (at least some) future accidents in aviation by enlighten interesting visitors. The attitude and missing dedication to that from the guys behind the small table within a federal pavillon did not match up to that claim.

But, if lives of future passengers can be saved by usurping my idea, it is better than nothing.

Please distribute!

* Der nächste Beitrag kommt wieder auf Deutsch, versprochen. Aber das hier ist sowieso primär für USA interessant und da ist Deutsch nunmal weniger verbreitet.)