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Romantic Seine summer cruise ends when boat rams bridge

August 12, 1997

PARIS (AP) _ It seemed the perfect way to spend a hot August day: on a bateau mouche, lulled by the gentle swell of the Seine, drifting by Parisian landmarks _ until the boat rammed into a bridge and the tourists went flying.

Monday’s crash of the double-decker Parisis, apparently caused by a glitch in the navigational system, left 28 tourists injured, most only with bruises.

The gaily painted vessel was packed with passengers when it struck a lower arch of the Pont Royal bridge, just across from the Tuileries Gardens and the Louvre.

``I was facing the other way,″ said Audrey Hawtin, from Banbury in central England. ``And then, nothing, black. I just felt knocked out. I hit my head on the railing.″

Her husband Ronald was in worse shape. Monday evening, he lay in a Paris hospital with broken ribs.

``Our summer vacation is completely spoiled,″ Mrs. Hawtin said.

Bernard Schmitt, of Alsace, France, was there with his son. ``There were people who went over the tops of the seats,″ he said.

A woman in her 60s hurt her neck, and had to be put in a neck brace.

Hawtin was carried out on a bright orange body splint.

The Hawtins had come to France to attend a wedding on Saturday and had only a day in Paris.

The boat ride was ``just something we wanted to do,″ she said. ``I wish we hadn’t have bothered, now.″

Others on board included tourists from France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Japan and one American, whose name and hometown were not available.

By evening, only four people remained in hospitals, officials said. Hawtin was the most seriously injured.

The bateaux mouches _ named for the section of Lyons where they were first built in the late 19th century _ ply the Seine day and night, drifting by the Eiffel Tower, the Musee d’Orsay, and the Ile St. Louis.

The director of Vedettes du Pont Neuf company, one of about a half-dozen companies that run tourist boats along the river, said the accident stemmed from an error in the electronic navigation system that misdirected the boat.

``The captain didn’t have time to react and was too near the bridge,″ Eric Levavasseur said.

The boat resumed its course and docked near the Pont Neuf bridge, not far from Notre Dame.

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