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. About 7 minutes 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 in the area. The remaining 13 passengers, including 3 children, lost their lives. The vehicle damage was estimated at $100,000.
The Safety Board's investigation of this accident identified the following major safety issues:
- Vehicle maintenance,
- Coast Guard inspections of the Miss Majestic,
- Coast Guard inspection guidance,
- Reserve buoyancy, and
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the uncontrolled flooding and sinking of the Miss Majestic was the failure of Land and Lakes Tours, Inc., to adequately repair and maintain the DUKW. Contributing to the sinking was a flaw in the design of DUKWs as converted for passenger service, that is, the lack of adequate reserve buoyancy that would have allowed the vehicle to remain afloat in a flooded condition. Contributing to the unsafe condition of the Miss Majestic was the lack of adequate oversight by the Coast Guard. Contributing to the high loss of life was a continuous canopy roof that entrapped passengers within the sinking vehicle.
As a result of this investigation, the Safety Board makes recommendations to the U.S. Coast Guard and the Governors of the States of New York and Wisconsin.
To the U.S. Coast Guard and the Governors of the States of New York and Wisconsin:
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. (M-02-1)
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:
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,
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,
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,
installation of four independently powered bilge alarms,
inspection of the vehicle in water after each time a through-hull penetration has been removed or uncovered,
verification of a vehicle's watertight condition in the water at the outset of each waterborne departure, and
compliance with all remaining provisions of Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular1-01. (M-02-2)
Where canopies have been removed on amphibious passenger vehicles for which there is not adequate reserve buoyancy, require that all passengers don lifejackets before the onset of waterborne operations. (M-02-3)
To the U.S. Coast Guard
Develop and promulgate guidance for all amphibious passenger vehicles similar in purpose to the Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular 1-01. (M-02-4)
Previously Issued Recommendation Classified in this Report
The following Safety Recommendation was issued to 30 operators and refurbishers of amphibious passenger vehicles in the United States:
Without delay, alter your amphibious passenger vessels to provide reserve buoyancy through passive means, such as watertight compartmentalization, builtin flotation, or equivalent measures, so that they will remain afloat and upright in the event of flooding, even when carrying a full complement of passengers and crew.
Based on information received, the Safety Board classifies, in this report, Safety Recommendation M-00-5 (previously classified "Open-Acceptable Response") "Closed-Acceptable Action" for the following company: Cool Stuff.
Based on the lack of response to its February 18, 2000, initial letter and its August 17, 2000, follow-up letter, the Safety Board classifies Safety Recommendation M-00-5 "Open-Unacceptable Response" to the following companies: Aqua Traks, Inc; Austin Ducks; Buffalo Point; Chattanooga Ducks; Chicago Duck Tours; Ducks Amphibious Renovation/Sales; Land and Sea Tours; Maui Duck Tours; Naples Land and Sea Tours; National Park Duck Tours; Outfitter Kauai; Ozark Mountain Ducks; Sterling Equipment; and South Padre Water Sports/Breakaway.