Just Ducky Tours to retool for 2019 season after closing early this year |

Just Ducky Tours to retool for 2019 season after closing early this year

A Just Ducky Tours duck boat in shown in Pittsburgh in this photo from the company.

A co-owner of Just Ducky Tours said his company is paying the price for other companies with shoddy safety records.

Just Ducky Tours canceled the rest of its season this week, ending land and water tours of Pittsburgh three months early.

Declining sales in the wake of the deadly duck boat sinking in Missouri and construction near Station Square prompted Pittsburgh’s Just Ducky Tours to close early this year, owners Chris D’Addario and Michael Cohen said Wednesday.

D’Addario took aim at other duck boat companies with accident records, saying they are the problem and pointing to Just Ducky’s clean records and two million riders over more than two decades.

“(It) appears that they are bad operators, and the rest of us are paying the price,” D’Addario said.

The cancellation comes as Cohen and D’Addario “retool for the 2019 season,” according to a statement released by the company. The season normally would run through the end of November.

Seventeen people died in Table Rock Lake on July 19 when one of Ride the Ducks’ amphibious vehicles sank in high winds and stormy conditions. On Aug. 5, a Norfolk Southern freight train derailed near Station Square, causing weeks of cleanup that shut down the Station Square T station and left one lane of East Carson Street closed through the area.

D’Addario called it “understandable” that some might be hesitant to ride a duck boat after the deaths in Branson, but said he stands by the “flawless safety record over 21 years.”

He said his company has canceled hundreds of tours when their safety could have been in jeopardy, including during storms and poor river conditions.

Much of the statement from D’Addario and Cohen focused on why Just Ducky boats are safer than those used in Branson, including the fact that the bodies of Pittsburgh’s boats are not modified and have canopies and side curtains “designed specifically for easy exit in the event of an emergency.”

The canopies of the land- and water-enabled vessels were cited in a 2002 National Transportation Safety Board report that followed the 1999 sinking of Miss Majestic, an Arkansas duck boat that sank in Lake Hamilton, killing 13.

Investigators who recovered the Miss Majestic found seven dead passengers still inside — four of them pinned against the underside of the canopy roof, according to the NTSB report. Just Ducky Tours was cited in the NTSB report as a company using the dangerous canopies.

Last week, the Missouri Attorney General filed a civil lawsuit accusing the Branson operator, owned by Ripley Entertainment, of operating its duck boards in spite of knowing about the design problems.

On Saturday, the Wall Street Journal published a story in which D’Addario said that his sales were down by a quarter to one-third since the Missouri fatalities.

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.