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Search Continues For Missing Tour Boat Passengers

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PHILADELPHIA - Searchers said Thursday that hope was fading for finding two missing tour boat passengers alive a day after the amphibious craft they were riding in was struck and sunk by a barge in the Delaware River.

Police and Coast Guard officials said a search for the missing duck boat passengers resumed Thursday morning near Philadelphia's Penn's Landing, with boats searching the surface and using sonar. But conditions were too dangerous to send divers underwater Thursday.

"There is no visibility whatsoever on the bottom," said Philadelphia police Lt. Andrew Napoli, speaking of his earlier dives. "The vehicle is laying upright on its wheels. There could be bodies inside, we're not sure. ... With the currents being what they are, if it went down with bodies inside, the bodies could very well have been washed out of the vessel."

Interviews with other passengers indicate the missing 16-year-old girl and 20-year-old man were members of a Hungarian tour group, officials said.

The 37 people aboard the six-wheeled duck boat were tossed overboard when the tugboat-pushed barge hit it after it had been adrift for a few minutes with its engine stalled, police said. Most were plucked from the river by other vessels in a frantic rescue operation that happened in full view of Penn's Landing, just south of the Ben Franklin Bridge.

The duck boat, which can travel seamlessly on land and water, had driven into the river Wednesday afternoon and suffered a mechanical problem and a small fire, officials said. It was struck about 10 minutes later by a barge used to transport sludge and sank to the bottom of the river.

Ten people were taken to a hospital; two declined treatment, and the other eight were treated and released, Hahnemann University Hospital spokeswoman Coleen Cannon said.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it planned to try to obtain any radio recordings, any possible mayday calls, photographs from witnesses or people aboard and other evidence as its investigators remain in Philadelphia over the next several days.

NTSB member Robert Sumwalt said investigators would try to figure out why the vessels collided and "how conspicuous would that duck have been" to the tugboat pushing the 250-foot-long barge. NTSB officials also hoped to conduct witness interviews, he said.

___

Associated Press writers JoAnn Loviglio, Kathy Matheson, Peter Jackson and Ron Todt contributed to this report.



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