(king-tv) – Four killed in crash of bus, Duck vehicle

At least two people were killed and others were in critical condition after a bus and a Ride The Ducks tour vehicle collided on the Aurora Bridge in Seattle. VPC

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SEATTLE — Four people were killed and nine were in critical condition after a bus and a Ride The Ducks amphibious tour vehicle collided Thursday on a bridge north of downtown, Seattle officials said.

At least 50 people were evaluated at the scene and several were transported to a hospital.

The force of the collision was so powerful that a huge gash was ripped in the side of the bus. At least two of those killed were riding on the bus, Seattle Fire Department Lt. Sue Stengl said.

“The majority of the significant injuries were from passengers on the bus,” she said at a noon PT briefing.

Stengl said the “pure immensity of the incident” was the greatest challenge to first responders, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported.

The crash occurred on a busy north-south highway linking the city’s center with northwest Seattle. Lanes are particularly narrow on the 83-year-old span, officially named the George Washington Bridge but often called the Aurora Bridge.

Authorities have not yet said what caused the crash. Amphibious vehicles first developed for use during World War II are often wider than a traffic lane.

The collision took place around 11:15 a.m. when the amphibious vehicle and the bus collided, ripping out the side of the bus, a witness told The Seattle Times. Two SUVs swerved to avoid the crash and also were involved.

The tour boat “had its blinker on, trying to get in the left lane,” Jesse Christenson, 32, of Portland, Ore., told the Times. “Then all of a sudden the Duck boat turned sharper into the left. I initially thought it was a blow out.”

The duck boat then hit another car and went head-on into the oncoming tour bus, he said.

“It looked like the wheel on the Duck bus broke off,” he said. “There was a wheel assembly in front of the Duck boat.”

On the charter bus were 45 students from North Seattle College, which has more than 900 international students, officials there said. Classes are scheduled to start Monday.

Bellair charters and airport shuttles owns the bus involved in the collision, the Timesreported. The Duck name is derived from the designation DUKW, derived from six-wheeled amphibious vehicles used as U.S. military landing craft in the war. The vehicles have been involved in several accidents, most recently in July.

The company was involved in two other collisions in recent years, in December 2010 and June 2011, when different Duck drivers rear-ended passenger vehicles. No injuries were reported, but both Duck drivers told police they didn’t see the cars because of the height of their own vehicles, the Times said, citing collision reports.

Because Duck vehicles are designed to travel on the road and on water, their hulls are stronger than most buses on the road. The company announced soon after the crash that it was suspending operations.

The Aurora Bridge was closed in both directions.

“The scene was pretty gruesome,” Christenson said. “There were people in shock.”

Contributing: Greg Toppo, USA TODAY

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