Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation M-02-002
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: Until such time that owners provide sufficient reserve buoyancy in their amphibious passenger vehicles so that they will remain upright and afloat in a fully flooded condition (by M-02-1), require the following: (1) removal of canopies for waterborne operations or installation of a Coast Guard-approved canopy that does not restrict either horizontal or vertical escape by passengers in the event of sinking, (2) reengineering of each amphibious vehicle to permanently close all unnecessary access plugs and to reduce all necessary through-hull penetrations to the minimum size necessary for operation, (3) installation of independently powered electric bilge pumps that are capable of dewatering the craft at the volume of the largest remaining penetration to supplement either an operable Higgins pump or a dewatering pump of equivalent or greater capacity, (4) installation of four independently powered bilge alarms, (5) inspection of the vehicle in water after each time a through-hull penetration has been removed or uncovered, (6) verification of a vehicle's watertight condition in the water at the outset of each waterborne departure, and (7) compliance with all remaining provisions of Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular1-01. (M-02-2)
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: 10/5/2007
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: 10/5/2007
Response: The Coast Guard reiterated its concurrence with the intent of this recommendation and cited Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular (NVIC) l-01 as its approach to the unique design and operational risks of APVs, which is to establish a level of safety equivalent to that of other small passenger vessels of similar size and service. The Coast Guard reemphasizes that APV safety is accomplished in part through a combination of design requirements and operational restrictions, and risk management is incorporated by considering the entire vehicle and its equipment as a complete safety system. On May 6, 2003, in view of the Coast Guard’s statement that “Owners of amphibious passenger vehicles (APV) may implement the recommendations in the NVIC 1-01 or must demonstrate to the local OCMI [Officer-in-Charge of Marine Inspection] that their APV has attained an equivalent level of safety through other means,” the Safety Board requested that the Coast Guard clarify to what extent the industry, operator by operator, is in compliance with all items in Safety Recommendation M-02-2, including the item that states “compliance with all remaining provisions of NVIC 1-01.” In doing so, the Safety Board emphasized the first item, which we believe to be safety critical, “[the] removal of canopies for waterborne operations or installation of a Coast Guard—approved canopy that does not restrict either horizontal or vertical escape by passengers in the event of sinking.” However, because the Coast Guard has only reiterated the position it has held since 2002 and has again stated that it will take no further action on this issue, Safety Recommendation M-02-2 is classified Closed Unacceptable Action.

From: USCG
To: NTSB
Date: 1/30/2007
Response: No change since 9/5/02 response: We concur with the intent of this recommendation. As stated in Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular (NVIC) 1-01, our approach to the unique design and operational risks of amphibious vehicles is to require a level of safety equivalent to other small passenger vessels of similar size and service. This is accomplished in part through a combination of design requirements and operational restrictions. Additionally, risk management is incorporated by considering the entire vehicle and its equipment as a complete safety system. With this approach in mind ... ... Owner’s of amphibious passenger vehicles may implement the recommendations in NVIC 1-01 or must demonstrate to the cognizant OCMI that their vehicles have attained an equivalent level of safety through other means. We intend to take no further action on this recommendation and request that it be closed.

From: NTSB
To: USCG
Date: 5/6/2003
Response: The Coast Guard reports that it concurs with the intent of this recommendation and, as stated in NVIC l-01, its approach to the unique design and operational risks of APVs is to require a level of safety equivalent to other small passenger vessels of similar size and service. Further, this is accomplished in part through a combination of design requirements and operational restrictions. The Coast Guard further notes that risk management is incorporated by considering the entire vehicle and its equipment as a complete safety system. The Coast Guard provided specific comments regarding each part of the Safety Board's recommendation to support its position on this issue. Although the Coast Guard indicates that it concurs with the intent of the recommendation, the Safety Board points out that the recommendation calls for requirements and not just the voluntary guidance specified in NVIC 1-01. In view of the Coast Guard's statement that "Owners of amphibious passenger vehicles (APV) may implement the recommendations in the NVIC 1-01 or must demonstrate to the local OCMI [Officer-in-Charge of Marine Inspection] that their APV has attained an equivalent level of safety through other means," the Safety Board requests that the Coast Guard clarify to what extent the industry, operator by operator, is in compliance with all items in Safety Recommendation M-02-2, including the item that states "compliance with all remaining provisions of NVIC 1-01." The Safety Board emphasizes the first item, which we believe is critical, "removal of canopies for waterborne operations or installation of a Coast Guard-approved canopy that does not restrict either horizontal or vertical escape by passengers in the event of sinking." Because the Coast Guard concurred with the recommendation, Safety Recommendation M-02-2 is classified "Open--Acceptable Response," pending an operator-by-operator summary of compliance with NVIC 1-01.

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-02-02: Until such time that owners provide sufficient reserve buoyancy in their amphibious passenger vehicles so that they will remain upright and afloat in a fully flooded condition (by M-02-1 j, require the following: (I) removal of canopies for waterborne operations or installation of a Coast Guard-approved canopy that does not restrict either horizontal or vertical escape by passengers in the event of sinking, (2) reengineering of each amphibious vehicle to permanently close all unnecessary access plugs and to reduce all necessary through-hull penetrations to the minimum size necessary for operation, (3) installation of independently powered electric bilge pumps that are capable of dewatering the craft at the volume of the largest remaining penetration to supplement either an operable Higgins pump or a dewatering pump of equivalent or greater capacity, (4) installation of four independently powered bilge alarms, (5) inspection of the vehicle in the water after each time a through-hull penetration has been removed or uncovered, (6) verification of a vehicle’s watertight condition in the water at the outset of each waterborne departure, and (7) compliance with all remaining provisions of Navigation and Vessel Inspection CircularI-01. Response: We concur with the intent of this recommendation. As stated in Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular (NVIC) l-01, our approach to the unique design and operational risks of amphibious vehicles is to require a level of safety equivalent to other small passenger vessels of similar size and service. This is accomplished in part through a combination of design requirements and operational restrictions. Additionally, risk management is incorporated by considering the entire vehicle and its equipment as a complete safety system. With this approach in mind, the following comments are provided in response to the specific subparts of this recommendation: (1) In addition to the guidance provided on the design and installation of canopies, NVIC l-01 also provides extensive guidance for Officers in Charge, Marine Inspection (OCMI) and owners of amphibious passenger vehicles to evaluate the design and installation of associated arrangements such as seating, deck rails, windshields and windows. All of these items, including the canopy, are to be evaluated as a system to ensure that the overall arrangement does not restrict the ability of passengers to escape. Additionally, NVIC l-01 provides guidance on the importance of addressing emergency egress during the passenger safety orientation. We believe the guidance contained in NVlC l-01 is sufficient to ensure that adequate means of escape are provided on amphibious passenger vehicles that have canopies installed. (2) Reengineering of an amphibious passenger vehicle must be carefully evaluated and monitored on a case-by-case basis due to the interaction between amphibious components and the unique issues involved in operating in two different environments. Permanently closing access plugs would create difficulties in landbased maintenance of the vehicle and its equipment. NVIC l-01 provides guidance on reducing through-hull penetrations. (3) NVIC l-01 establishes a methodology and guidance for use in calculating the bilge pump capacity and arrangement that, in addition to clearing accumulation from normal operations, can offset uncontrolled flooding through the largest penetration in the hull until the vehicle can be safely beached. Additionally, any arrangement must comply with the requirements in 46 CFR 182.520, including requirements for powered bilge pumps to be driven by different sources of power. Independently powered electric bilge pumps would require an independent generator, which would present significant installation and operational impracticalities on these vehicles. (4) NVIC I-01 already establishes the installation of four bilge high level alarms as a means of attaining an equivalent level of safety. (5 & 6) Owners of amphibious passenger vehicles are strongly encouraged to develop company operations manuals that include standards for interior and exterior hull examinations for verification of watertight integrity prior to the carriage of passengers. We believe these guidelines are sufficient and do not believe that such examinations must be conducted while the vehicle is in the water. (7) Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular (NVIC) l-01 provides supplemental guidance for the certification of all passenger carrying amphibious vehicles. It provides guidance to Officers in Charge, Marine Inspection, owners, and operators to ensure that the risks presented by the unique features of amphibious vehicles are addressed. We believe NVIC l-01 should continue to be used as a source of guidance for amphibious passenger vehicles to attain a level of safety equivalent to other passenger vessels of similar size and capacity. An equivalent level of safety is required by 46 CFR 175.550. Owners of amphibious passenger vehicles may implement the recommendations in NVIC l-01 or must demonstrate to the cognizant OCMT that their vehicles have attained an equivalent level of safety through other means. We intend to take no further 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 1-4-06: 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.