Faulty water pump causes duck boat to go adrift in San Francisco Bay; 22 evacuated

Twenty-two people were rescued from a San Francisco duck tour boat after the engine overheated and stalled as a result of a water pump failure.

The incident involving TD-11 happened Dec. 24, 2011, while the 33-foot vessel was conducting a tour in China Basin, also known as McCovey Cove, at the mouth of Mission Creek in San Francisco Bay.

U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Mike Lutz said the initial distress call at 1606 reported that the duck boat’s engine was on fire. The operator noticed smoke, called the Coast Guard over VHF Ch. 16 and instructed the passengers to put on life jackets.

The Coast Guard responded with a 41-foot utility boat, which arrived at 1618. Lutz said the Coast Guard vessel removed 22 people from the duck boat and safely transported them to South Beach Marina. At the time of the incident, the weather was clear and the temperature was in the mid-40s.

"There were no injuries, and all of the people donned life jackets. No one went in the water. They put them on as a precaution," Lutz said.

The San Francisco Fire Department responded with fireboat Phoenix. Jeff Ryan, a spokesman for the Fire Department, said that his men assisted with loading the passengers onto the Coast Guard boat so that they could be brought ashore.

According to the Fire Department's official report, there was no fire. The duck boat had simply overheated and became disabled. The fireboat assisted the Coast Guard in towing the duck boat to shore.

Built in 2007, TD-11 is operated by Ride The Ducks of Norcross, Ga., and Branson, Mo. Bob Salmon, the company's vice president of marketing, explained that the water pump on the duck boat failed, causing the engine to overheat. The pump was repaired and the vessel was put back into service.

The same company operates duck-boat tours in Philadelphia, where an incident of overheating occurred July 7, 2010. In that accident involving duck boat DUKW 34, the overheating was due to a missing coolant tank cap. Two people were killed when a barge struck the disabled duck boat in the Delaware River. The mate aboard the barge's tugboat Caribbean Sea was sentenced to one year in prison after pleading guilty to misconduct. He also agreed to surrender his merchant mariner license.

By Professional Mariner Staff