Amphibious-vehicle incident in U.S. not scaring P.E.I. tourists

By Ernesto Carranza

Sept. 29, 2015

David and his wife Janette Priestley have visited P.E.I. 10 times in the last 10 years to see the colours of the leaves change in the fall.

They have taken the Harbour Hippo at least once and climbed aboard other amphibious vehicles around the U.S. and the Maritimes.

Recently, a collision involving an amphibious vehicle and a charter bus down in Seattle killed four international students.

That hasn’t stopped the Priestleys.

“We’ve heard about what happened in Seattle and it doesn’t really bother us. We would still take those vehicles just to see the coloured leaves around Charlottetown,” said David.

Critics say the large amphibious vehicles are built for war, not for ferrying tourist on narrow city streets, according to an article published by the Associated Press.

Still, Brenda and Rick Kilarski, who were visting from Regina, felt the same way about the Harbour Hippo as the Priestleys.

“We’ve been on those types of vehicles before and always felt safe. There is always a chance and accident might happen, but I think tourism companies take the necessary precautions to ensure people are safe,” said Brenda.

Steve Bulzomi is a Seattle attorney who represented a victim of an amphibious vehicle collision in 2011.

He questioned the practicality of these types of military vehicles used for tourism purposes, in an interview with the Associated Press.

“I would hope that everybody would take a serious look at whether this is a real good idea for the streets of Seattle.”

But Kilarskis remained confident the Harbour Hippo is still a good way to see a new place.

“It’s such a beautiful way to see Charlottetown,” said Brenda.

Leah Inman knew she loved Charlottetown’s rich history, but she found she loved it even more when she gave guided tours around downtown Charlottetown harbour and what made it come alive for her was the Harbour Hippo amphibious vehicle.

“People really enjoy being able to see the downtown area and learn the history of Charlottetown and when we get on the water we always delve deeper into its history,” said Inman.

“This is my first year doing these tours but I have been on the Harbour Hippo every year. I love it.”

Inman is a music student at UPEI and brings her talent onto the tours with renditions of Stompin’ Tom songs.

She is never worried about the safety of the amphibious vehicle.

“We have CPR training and the vehicle is Transportation Canada certified. We have life jackets and a life boat in the back of the vehicle so we are very well prepared,” she said.

“We have a great driver who has had experience with these kinds of vehicles before in Halifax so I’m not worried.”