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Safety Recommendation M-02-001
Details
Synopsis: On May 1, 1999, the amphibious passenger vehicle Miss Majestic, with an operator and 20 passengers on board, entered Lake Hamilton near Hot Springs, Arkansas, on a regular excursion tour. Shortly after entering the water, the vehicle listed to port and rapidly sank by the stern in 60 feet of water. One passenger escaped before the vehicle submerged but the remaining passengers and the operator were trapped by the vehicle's canopy roof and drawn under water. During the vehicle's descent to the bottom of the lake, 6 passengers and the operator were able to escape and, upon their reaching the water's surface, were rescued by pleasure boaters. The remaining 13 passengers, including 3 children, lost their lives. The vehicle damage was estimated at $100,000.
Recommendation: The National Transportation Safety Board makes the following safety recommendations to the States of New York and Wisconsin, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard: Require that amphibious passenger vehicle operators provide reserve buoyancy through passive means, such as watertight compartmentalization, built-in flotation, or equivalent measures, so that the vehicles will remain afloat and upright in the event of flooding, even when carrying a full complement of passengers and crew.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Unacceptable Action
Mode: Marine
Location: Other Lakes, AR, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA99MM021
Accident Reports:
Sinking of the Amphibious Passenger Vessel Miss Majestic
Report #: MAR-02-01
Accident Date: 5/1/1999
Issue Date: 5/2/2002
Date Closed: 9/17/2007
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: State of New York (Closed--No Longer Applicable)
State of Wisconsin (Closed - Unacceptable Action)
USCG (Closed - Unacceptable Action)
Keyword(s):

Safety Recommendation History
From: State of Wisconsin
To: NTSB
Date: 11/14/2007
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 12/4/2007 9:08:50 AM MC# 2070706 - From Matthew J. Frank, Secretary, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources I am writing in response to your letter of September 17,2007, regarding the NTSB’s recommendations M-02-1 to -3 arising from the Safety Board investigation of the sinking of the Miss Majestic on Lake Hamilton near Hot Springs, Arkansas in 1999. As a result of the investigation, the NTSB made safety recommendations for amphibious passenger vessels. You encouraged us to adopt these recommendations because the United States Coast Guard has no jurisdiction on the state waters of Wisconsin where amphibious passenger vessels are operating. Section 30.62(9), Wis. Stats., specifies that the Department of Natural Resources (the DNR) can only create those equipment related administrative rules necessary to bring us into conipliance with federal regulations. Since your recommendations M-02-01 to -3 are not currently in the Code of Federal Regulations, we cannot use our administrative rule authority and the only entity that could create the necessary laws is the Wisconsin Legislature. While the DNR supports the suggested safety measures, we are limited in what we can accomplish as a state agency. I have taken this opportunity to copy State Senator Luther Olsen and State Representative Jake Hines who represent the Wisconsin Dells and Lake Delton areas which contain our only amphibious vessel passenger excursions, the Dells Original Ducks and the Dells Army Ducks. If either Representative Hines or Senator Olsen is interested in pursuing such legislative action, we would be more than happy to work with them. If the DNR can be of further assistance in this matter, please contact Roy Zellnier, our Boating Law Administrator at 608-264-8970.

From: NTSB
To: State of Wisconsin
Date: 9/17/2007
Response: On September 3, 2002, Mr. Darrell Bazzell, then Wisconsin’s Secretary of Natural Resources, reported that a change in Federal law exempted the portion of river on which amphibious passenger vehicles operate in Wisconsin from regulation concerning the operation, maintenance, and inspection of commercial vehicles. In its May 18, 2004, response, the Safety Board explained that it was aware that Public Law (PL) 101-595, enacted on November 16, 1990, had declared portions of the Wisconsin River to be nonnavigable; that is, not subject to U.S. Coast Guard jurisdiction. As stated in its May 18, 2004, letter, however, the Board emphasizes that PL 101-595 does not prohibit the State of Wisconsin or other local jurisdictions from enacting and enforcing their own regulations on these nonfederal waters; for this very reason, the Board issued Safety Recommendations M-02-1 through -3 to the State of Wisconsin. To the Board’s knowledge, at present, no authority in Wisconsin regulates amphibious passenger vehicles, although the Board is aware that Wisconsin enforces its recreational boating safety standards for lifejackets, fire extinguishers, and State numbering. Given the 1999 Hot Springs, Arkansas, accident and others outlined in the Board’s report, the Board maintained that this lack of regulation is an unacceptable endangerment to the public who ride these vehicles, and public safety necessitates enforcement of safety standards for amphibious passenger vehicles beyond basic recreational boating safety requirements. Accordingly, the Safety Board requested that the State of Wisconsin reconsider its position on this issue and implement these vital safety standards. Pending further response from Wisconsin, Safety Recommendations M-02-1 through -3 were classified Open Unacceptable Response. On August 11, 2006, because there had been no further response from the State of Wisconsin, the Safety Board requested an update on any action that the State had taken, or planned to take, to implement Safety Recommendations M-02-1 through -3. Because there has been no further response from Wisconsin on this issue, Safety Recommendations M-02-1 through -3 are classified Closed Unacceptable Action. Should the Safety Board receive a timely response indicating action taken, or planned, to address these recommendations, the Board will consider reevaluating their classification.

From: NTSB
To: State of Wisconsin
Date: 8/11/2006
Response: On September 3, 2002, Mr. Darrell Bazzell, then Wisconsin's Secretary of Natural Resources, reported that a change in Federal law exempted the portion of river on which amphibious passenger vehicles operate in Wisconsin from regulation concerning the operation, maintenance, and inspection of commercial vehicles. In its May 18, 2004, response, the Safety Board explained that it was aware that Public Law (PL) 101-595, enacted on November 16, 1990, had declared portions of the Wisconsin River to be nonnavigable; that is, not subject to U.S. Coast Guard jurisdiction. As stated in its May 18, 2004, letter, however, the Board notes that PL 101-595 does not prohibit the State of Wisconsin or other local jurisdictions from enacting and enforcing their own regulations on these nonfederal waters; for this very reason, the Board issued Safety Recommendations M-02-1 through -3 to the State of Wisconsin. To the Board's knowledge, at present, no authority in Wisconsin regulates amphibious passenger vehicles, although the Board is aware that Wisconsin enforces its recreational boating safety standards for lifejackets, fire extinguishers, and State numbering. The Board maintained, given the 1999 Hot Springs, Arkansas, accident and others outlined in the Board's report, that this lack of regulation is an unacceptable endangerment to the public who ride these vehicles and that public safety necessitates enforcement of safety standards for amphibious passenger vehicles beyond basic recreational boating safety requirements. Accordingly, the Safety Board requested that the State of Wisconsin reconsider its position on this issue and implement these vital safety standards. Pending further response from Wisconsin on this issue, Safety Recommendations M-02-1 through -3 were classified "Open-Unacceptable Response." Because there has been no further response from the State of Wisconsin, the Safety Board requests an update on the action that the State has taken or plans to take to implement Safety Recommendations M-02-1 through -3. We have enclosed copies of the Board's 2002 report and previous correspondence on the recommendations.

From: NTSB
To: State of Wisconsin
Date: 5/18/2004
Response: The Safety Board is aware that Public Law (PL) 101-595 was enacted on November 16, 1990, and has declared portions of the Wisconsin River to be nonnavigable; that is, not subject to U.S. Coast Guard jurisdiction. Section 318 of PL 101-595 states: The portion of the Wisconsin River above the hydroelectric dam at Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, is hereby declared to be a nonnavigable waterway of the United States for the purposes of Title 46, United States Code, including but not limited to the provisions of such title relating to vessel inspection and vessel licensure, and the other maritime laws of the United States. The Safety Board understands that PL 101-595 does not prohibit the State of Wisconsin or other local jurisdictions from enacting and enforcing its own regulations on these nonfederal waters; for this very reason, the Board issued Safety Recommendations M-02-1 through -3 to the State of Wisconsin. At present, no authority in Wisconsin regulates amphibious passenger vehicles, although the Safety Board is aware that Wisconsin does enforce its recreational boating safety standards for lifejackets, fire extinguishers and state numbering. The Board maintains, given the 1999 Hot Springs, Arkansas, and other accidents outlined in the Board's report, that this lack of regulation is an unacceptable endangerment to the public who ride these vehicles. Public safety necessitates enforcement of safety standards for amphibious passenger vehicles beyond basic recreational boating safety requirements. Accordingly, the Safety Board requests that the State of Wisconsin reconsider its position on this issue and implement these vital safety standards. Pending further response from Wisconsin on this issue, Safety Recommendations M-02-1 through -3 are classified "Open--Unacceptable Response."

From: State of Wisconsin
To: NTSB
Date: 9/3/2002
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 09/19/2002 8:58:39 AM MC# 2020824 As you may be aware, as a result of a change in federal law, the stretch of river where these vehicles operate in Wisconsin is exempt from regulation concerning the operation, maintenance and inspection of commercial vehicles. While we, therefore, have no jurisdiction to require compliance with the NTSB regulations, we will share this information with those who operate these vehicles.

From: NTSB
To: USCG
Date: 5/6/2003
Response: The Safety Board notes that the Coast Guard does not concur with this recommendation. The Coast Guard states that requirements for subdivision, damage stability, and watertight integrity for small passenger vessels of less than 100 gross tons are given in 46 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 179 and that there are no subdivision or damage stability requirements for vessels less than 65 feet in length carrying fewer than 50 passengers on protected waters. The Coast Guard further points out that for APVs that present additional flooding, sinking, and egress risks, guidance on attaining an equivalent level of safety, which is required by 46 CFR Section 175.550, has been promulgated through Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular (NVIC) 1-01, Inspection of Amphibious Passenger Carrying Vehicles. The Coast Guard further states that it believes sufficient requirements and guidance are in place to provide APVs a level of safety equivalent to other passenger vessels of similar size and capacity. The Safety Board does not agree with the Coast Guard's position and believes that because APVs are involved in unique operations, they require unique safety considerations. APVs can be flooded through several mechanisms, including a failed drive shaft boot, a failed through-hull fitting, a missing plug, or a hull breached by grounding, collision, or allision. APVs are subject to hull loadings and stresses not traditionally associated with conventional marine vessel operations. These stresses include highway and off-the-road travel, as well as stresses to the hull and appendages during repeated water entry and exit. Such operations can accelerate wear on the APV's hull and can loosen mechanical joints and connections, thereby compromising the watertight integrity of the hull. Because DUKWs have open interiors and a very low freeboard at the stern, they are vulnerable to rapid swamping and sinking. Once the stern is immersed (freeboard reduced to zero), water quickly swamps the interior of the DUKW, causing it to sink rapidly. Survivors of the Miss Majestic accident confirmed that the vehicle sank by the stern less than a minute after the deck edge at the stern was submerged, leaving insufficient opportunity for passengers to escape before the vehicle sank. Accordingly, the Safety Board issued this recommendation to make all APVs more survivable and stable so that they will not sink in the event of flooding. However, because the Coast Guard does not concur with this recommendation and intends to take no further action, Safety Recommendation M-02-1 is classified "Closed--Unacceptable Action."

From: USCG
To: NTSB
Date: 9/5/2002
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 09/17/2002 12:51:03 PM MC# 2020819 - From RADM Paul J. Pluta, Commandant for Marine Safety, Security and Environmental Protection We have reviewed the National Transportation Safety Board’s safety recommendation letter dated May 2, 2002, concerning the sinking of the amphibious passenger vehicle MISS MAJESTIC on Lake Hamilton, near Hot Springs, Arkansas, on May 1, 1999. As a result of its investigation of this casualty, the Board issued recommendations M-02-1 through -4 to the U.S. Coast Guard. The following is our response to these recommendations. Recommendation M-02-01: Require that amphibious passenger vehicle operators provide reserve buoyancy through passive means, such as watertight compartmentalization, built-in flotation, or equivalent measures, so that the vehicles will remain afloat and upright in the event of flooding, even when carrying a full complement of passengers and crew. Response: We do not concur with this recommendation. Requirements for subdivision, damage stability and watertight integrity for small passenger vessels of less than 100 gross tons are given at Title 46, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 179 (46 CFR 179). There are no subdivision or damage stability requirements for vessels less than 65 feet in length carrying fewer than 50 passengers on protected waters. For amphibious vessels that present additional flooding, sinking and egress risks, guidance on attaining an equivalent level of safety has been promulgated through Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular (NVIC) I-01. An equivalent level of safety is required by 46 CFR 175.550. WC believe that sufficient requirements and guidance are in place to provide to amphibious passenger vessels a level of safety equivalent to other passenger vessels of similar size and capacity. We intend to take no &rther action on this recommendation and request that it be closed.

From: NTSB
To: State of New York
Date: 3/24/2006
Response: The Safety Board understands that the only amphibious passenger vessel that operated within the State of New York, on Lake Placid, was removed from service about 2001 and sold to an out-of-state interest. Because New York State no longer certifies any amphibious passenger vessel that operates solely on its waters, Safety Recommendations M-02-1 through -3 are classified "Closed-No Longer Applicable." The Board further notes that should another amphibious passenger vessel seek certification within the State, New York will take the Board's recommendations into consideration before permitting its operation.

From: State of New York
To: NTSB
Date: 1/4/2006
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 1/11/2006 8:39:48 AM MC# 2060035 Governor Pataki has asked me to respond to your letter of November 16th concerning the Board's recommendations M-02-1 through 3. New York State no longer certifies any amphibious passenger vessels on sole-state waters. The one amphibious vehicle to operate within the state was located on Lake Placid, and it was removed from service around 2001. It is believed that the vehicle was sold to an out-of-state interest for undetermined purposes. Should another amphibious commercial vehicle seek certification within the state, we will certainly take the Board's recommendations into consideration before permitting its operation. Bernadette Castro, Commissioner, State Historic Preservation Officer, Empire State Plaza Agency Building 1 Albany, New York 12238, 518-474-0463 FAX.: 518-474-1365

From: NTSB
To: State of New York
Date: 11/16/2005
Response: The Safety Board has not yet received a response from the State of New York regarding these recommendations and would appreciate an update on what, if anything, New York has done to address the important safety issues raised by this accident.