A Durham woman who survived the collision between a barge and a duck boat in the Delaware River in Philadelphia, in which dozens of tourists were dumped into the water, resulting in several personal injuries and two Hungarian language students going missing, referred to the experience as “harrowing” and “surreal” in a July 8 interview with The Associated Press.
As of July 8, officials said that hope was beginning to fade for the two missing persons, said to be a 16-year-old girl and a 20-year-old man. A search continued, but due to low visibility in the 50-foot-deep water, divers were not sent in.
The Durham woman, 67-year-old Sandy Cohen, said that the incident began as a simple inconvenience, as smoke began to emerge from the boat’s engine when it entered the water. She said the tour guide said a tug boat was on the way to return the passengers to the shore.
Cohen said that she was on the phone with her husband, filling him in on what happened, when others began screaming and someone shouted that a barge was rapidly approaching. She grabbed a nearby life jacket as the boat was hit.
Upon surfacing, Cohen said she saw one of the Hungarian teens aboard the boat was hanging onto the same life jacket she was. She said she helped the girl remain calm and told her not to let go. Rescue came five to 10 minutes later.
The Norcross, Georgia-based tour company, Ride the Ducks, said that it was suspending operations across the U.S. on July 8, one day after suspending its Philadelphia tours as crews searched for the two missing persons. The company also runs tours in San Francisco, Atlanta, Newport, Kentucky, and Branson, Missouri.
Police say the 37 people aboard the six-wheeled duck boat were sent overboard when the tugboat-pushed barge struck the vessel, which had been adrift for a few minutes. Most were retrieved from the river by other vessels. The boat had driven into the river on July 7 and suffered mechanical problems and a small fire. The collision occurred about 10 minutes later.
Ten people received transport to a hospital. Two of them declined treatment and eight others were released after being treated, according to Hahnemann University Hospital spokeswoman Coleen Cannon.