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Georgia-based tour company suspends duck boat operations nationwide after Philly accident

In this July 7, 2010 photo, a tourist boat from the Ride the Ducks tour company, foreground, not known to be related to Wednesday's collision that occurred between another amphibious craft and a barge on the Delaware River in Philadelphia, floats in front of a U.S. Coast Guard vessel. The Hungarian government says two missing tour boat passengers were part of a group of 15 from that country who had traveled to Philadelphia to take part in a language course. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) <BR><BR>

In this July 7, 2010 photo, a tourist boat from the Ride the Ducks tour company, foreground, not known to be related to Wednesday's collision that occurred between another amphibious craft and a barge on the Delaware River in Philadelphia, floats in front of a U.S. Coast Guard vessel. The Hungarian government says two missing tour boat passengers were part of a group of 15 from that country who had traveled to Philadelphia to take part in a language course. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)



PHILADELPHIA -- Georgia-based tour company suspends duck boat operations nationwide after Philly accident.

While crews searched for the missing, the tour company, Norcross, Ga.-based Ride the Ducks, said Thursday that it was suspending operations nationwide, a day after it suspended its Philadelphia tours. It also operates tours in San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta, Newport, Ky., and Branson, Mo.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with our Philadelphia tour guests, crew members and their families," the company said in a statement. "We are attending to their needs first. In the interim, we have voluntarily suspended our Ride The Ducks operations nationwide."

Visibility at the bottom of the murky Delaware River was nil, said Philadelphia police Lt. Andrew Napoli, speaking of his earlier dives.

"The vehicle is laying upright on its wheels," he said. "There could be bodies inside, we're not sure. ... With the currents being what they are, if it went down with bodies inside, the bodies could very well have been washed out of the vessel."

The 37 people aboard the six-wheeled duck boat were tossed overboard when the tugboat-pushed barge hit it after it had been adrift for a few minutes, police said. Most were plucked from the river by other vessels in a frantic rescue operation that happened in full view of Penn's Landing, just south of the massive Ben Franklin Bridge connecting Philadelphia to New Jersey.

The duck boat, which can travel seamlessly on land and water, had driven into the river Wednesday afternoon and suffered a mechanical problem and the small fire, officials said. It was struck about 10 minutes later.

Ten people were taken to a hospital; two declined treatment, and eight were treated and released, Hahnemann University Hospital spokeswoman Coleen Cannon said.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it planned to try to obtain any radio recordings, any possible mayday calls, photographs from witnesses or people aboard and other evidence as its investigators remain in Philadelphia over the next several days.

Investigators planned to try to figure out why the vessels collided and "how conspicuous would that duck have been" to the tugboat pushing the 250-foot-long barge, NTSB member Robert Sumwalt said. NTSB officials also hoped to conduct witness interviews, he said.

Company: Duck boat showed no problems before fire

The company that owns a duck boat that caught fire on the Delaware River in Philadelphia and was struck by a barge says it had shown no sign of mechanical problems.

Ride the Ducks President Chris Herschen said at a news conference Thursday that the Norcross, Ga.-based company hopes to pull the vessel from the bottom of the river soon.

The company suspended duck boat tours nationwide after the accident Wednesday. Police and Coast Guard officials are still searching for two people. Others suffered minor injuries.

Herschen says the duck boat's captain appears to have followed all proper procedures during the emergency.

He says that, to his knowledge, no problems had been reported on the 10-year-old ship.

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Associated Press writers Maryclaire Dale, JoAnn Loviglio, Kathy Matheson and Peter Jackson contributed to this report.