A Ride the Ducks amphibious bus crash that killed five people and injured 69 others in Seattle three years ago has triggered another legal dispute between the city of Seattle and the state of Washington.
Since the Sept. 24, 2015 crash, city and state attorneys have been clashing in court over who is legally responsible for the safe operation of the Aurora Avenue Bridge, a six-lane bridge with three lanes each for northbound and southbound traffic.
The city previously filed a motion asking a King County judge to release it from responsibility for the lack of a barrier to separate the opposing traffic lanes. On May 3, the judge denied the motion.
The bridge is part of state highway 99, which is managed by the Washington State Department of Transportation, but the city is responsible for signs, markings, and other traffic control devices along the route.
According to KOMO News, the city argues that a median barrier doesn’t fall into its realm of responsibilities, but the state, which is responsible for the structure itself, disagrees.
“The city is trying to mislead this court,” Washington Assistant Attorney General Patricia Todd said, according to KOMO. “This court should expressly find that the city has a legal duty to make sure that Aurora Avenue as it crosses the Aurora Bridge is reasonably safe for ordinary travel.”
In denying the city’s motion, the judge said a jury would have to sort the matter out. The first trial in the ongoing dispute between the city and state is scheduled for October. Meanwhile, the bridge continues to operate without a median barrier.
The Ride the Ducks bus is a refurbished World War II amphibious vehicle that can operate as both a bus and a boat. The vehicle was driving along its regular route across the Aurora Avenue bridge when it experienced an axle malfunction, causing the bus to cross the center line and collide with oncoming traffic.
The collision killed five college students on a charter bus that was hit by the Ride the Ducks bus, and injured dozens more, many severely. The bridge continues to operate without a median barrier, which could have prevented the Ride the Ducks crash or lessened the severity of it.