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Tour boat captain sues City

A tour boat captain sued the city of Philadelphia and operators of a tugboat that pushed a huge city barge into his amphibious vessel, leaving two Hungarian tourists dead.
Gary Fox, 59, said in his lawsuit that he may not recover from injuries suffered in the crash July 7 or be able to return to work.

Fox said he feared he was going to die trapped underwater with his passengers in the Delaware River and blames the crash on the defendants’ negligence and carelessness. He suffered injuries to his back, head, neck, arms and legs, according to his lawsuit.

The parents of the two Hungarian tourists who were killed have sued K-Sea Transportation Partners of East Brunswick, N.J., along with the city and others. K-Sea operated the tugboat, which the city had hired to push its sludge barge up and down the Delaware River.

Fox worked for Ride the Ducks, a company based in Norcross, Ga., that operates land-and-water tours in several U.S. cities.

His 33-foot boat was stalled in the river’s busy shipping channel when the 250-foot barge struck it. The crash sent Fox, his deckhand and all 35 passengers into the water and trapped him and others under the huge barge.

A recent preliminary report by the National Transportation and Safety Board found that Fox’s distress calls to the tugboat went unanswered. Fox said his air horn didn’t work because he had to shut down the electrical system after seeing smoke, and there was no lookout on the approaching barge.

“Although other vessels heard Duck Boat 34’s radio calls, the tugboat did not respond to Capt. Fox’s radio transmissions and did not change its course,” said the lawsuit, filed in city court by lawyer Robert Slota.

Fox has flashbacks of watching his passengers struggle to escape from under the hull, his lawyer said. “He can still see the faces of the victims and hear their screams,” Slota said.

The city had no comment on the pending litigation. K-Sea also had no immediate response. Drug and alcohol tests on the crews of both vessels were negative, the NTSB said.

The mate piloting the tugboat has declined to answer investigators’ questions, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. His lawyer, Frank DeSimone, said he is concerned that criminal charges could be filed by federal prosecutors.

The two Hungarians who drowned were 16-year-old Dora Schwendtner and 20-year-old Szabolcs Prem.