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Duck boat driver cited in July crash that left pedestrian injured

A woman is taken to a waiting ambulance after being struck by a duck boat at the intersection at Newbury and Clarendon streets in Boston earlier this month.Keith Bedford/Globe Staff

The driver of a duck boat that struck a woman walking in the Back Bay this month has been cited for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, Boston police said Thursday.

Peter Sullivan, 54, was issued a citation for failure to yield to Marylou Clarke, 57, of New Jersey, as she crossed the intersection of Newbury and Clarendon streets on July 10, said Lieutenant Michael McCarthy.

Police initially said in a statement after the crash that Clarke “was crossing contrary to the walk signal as the duck boat was turning left from Newbury onto Clarendon,” and that “she came in contact with the vehicle which caused her to fall to the ground.”

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However, upon further investigation, Clarke’s lawyer, Bryan Gavin, said that turned out not to be true.

“According to our investigator, when the light for Newbury Street turns green, the pedestrian walkway light also signals the right of way,” Gavin said.

In addition, he pointed out, there is a sign near the intersection that says “Yield to pedestrians on turns.”

When asked about Boston police’s initial statement that indicated Clarke walked contrary to the walk signal, McCarthy said a motorist must yield to a pedestrian who is within the crosswalk — regardless of what the walk signal indicates.

According to the police report, Clarke had no recollection of the event.

Police said when Clarke’s husband saw the lumbering tour vehicle enter the intersection, “he signaled Mrs. Clarke by shouting out that she was walking in front of the bus to no avail.”

Gavin said Clarke suffered a subdural hematoma, a condition often caused by a severe head injury, as a result of the crash.

“Mrs. Clarke was a pedestrian lawfully in the crosswalk with the right of way,” Gavin said in a statement. “She was struck by the duck boat and knocked unconscious . . . Any report of her giving a statement at the scene is incorrect.”

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Dianna Curry, a spokeswoman for Boston Duck Tours, said the company has not seen the citation, as the driver is on a previously scheduled vacation. However, she said, the company was not surprised by it.

“Our understanding is that typically when there is an accident involving a pedestrian and a vehicle, [the driver] is usually charged, even when the pedestrian walked against the signal,” Curry said.

Curry said she did not know if the company would take disciplinary action against the driver as a result of this citation.

“[Boston Duck Tours] hasn’t seen the citation yet and therefore won’t prejudge the situation,” Curry said in an e-mail.

“They have a strong disciplinary program which they will follow.”

She added that it is not the company’s policy to comment on individual employees.

The news of the citation comes a few days after Boston Duck Tours officials said they will add a second employee to all vehicles in its fleet after the July 10 crash and another in April that killed 28-year-old Allison Warmuth.

Curry said Boston Duck Tours has improved the safety of their vehicles by adding cameras, and plans to add proximity sensors, as well as the second person on each duck boat.

“We are trying to achieve the highest safety standards, which Boston Duck Tours is committed to,” Curry said in a phone interview.

Ivan and Martha Warmuth, the parents of Allison, have been very vocal in supporting legislation filed by Senator William Brownsberger that would add safeguards to the large amphibious vehicles in an effort to prevent more such crashes.

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“We support the Warmuth family in calling upon the city to take immediate action to prevent any further tragedies,” Gavin said.

On Wednesday night, Martha Warmuth commended the citation.

“The citation underscores how inherently dangerous these duck boats are and the need for Senator Brownsberger’s bill,” she said.


Trisha Thadani can be reached at trisha.thadani@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @TrishaThadani.