LARGO (FOX 13) - While federal investigators work to piece together the tragedy in Missouri that killed 17 people, a local business in Pinellas County has been working for years to make amphibious vehicles safer.
“It hurts the whole industry when something like this happens,” said Kevin Buck, owner of Trolley Boats LLC in Largo.
Buck’s company specializes in building trolley boats, a newer model of the popular amphibious vehicle better known as duck boats.
“Most amphibious boats are built with a truck frame and they put a boat body on it,” Buck explained. “We make a boat and we transform it into a vehicle that drives on the road.”
The investigation into what caused the boat to sink, and what prevented passengers from getting out has rekindled a debate over the safety of duck boats. Those in the industry have focused on the canopy top of the boats which don’t come off in most cases. Buck says that has a lot to do with when duck boats became popular.
“They’re from 1942, that’s how they were built. They were built as landing crafts for the military and they’ve been converted into tour boats.”
Trolley Boats is working to being 21st century safety to the duck boat design.
“One of our key features is the emergency exit through the roof, we have three of them,” said Buck.
Buck hopes that tourists will continue to charter duck boat tours and not let safety concerns topple the industry.