Mon, Jul 23, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Survivor recounts boat accident that killed nine relatives

AP, BRANSON, Missouri

Duck boat accident survivor Tia Coleman speaks to the media during a news conference at Cox Medical Center in Branson, Missouri, on Saturday.

Photo: AP

“Grab the baby!”

Those were the last words that Tia Coleman recalls her sister-in-law yelling before the tourist boat that they were on sank into a Missouri lake, killing 17 people, including nine of Coleman’s family members.

A huge wave hit, scattering passengers on the vessel known as a duck boat into Table Rock Lake near Branson, Coleman said.

When the Indianapolis woman came up for air, she was alone.

“I said, ‘Lord, please, let me get to my babies,’” she told reporters from her wheelchair on Saturday in the lobby of a hospital where she is recovering after swallowing lake water. “‘If they don’t make it, Lord, take me too. I don’t need to be here.’”

Coleman recalled spotting the rescue boat and managed to reach it, “somehow.”

Coleman’s husband and three children, aged nine, seven and one; her 45-year-old sister-in-law and two-year-old nephew; her mother-in-law and father-in-law; and her husband’s uncle all died on Thursday night in the deadliest accident of its kind in nearly two decades.

None of the 31 passengers on board was wearing a life jacket, an incident report released by the Missouri State Highway Patrol on Saturday said.

State and federal investigators were trying to determine what sent the vessel, originally built for military use in World War II, to its demise. An initial assessment blamed thunderstorms and winds that approached hurricane strength, but it was not clear why the amphibious vehicle even ventured into the water.

Twenty-nine passengers and two crew members were aboard. Fourteen people survived, including two adults who remained hospitalized on Saturday. Coleman and her 13-year-old nephew were the only ones of her 11 family members on board the boat to live.

Chance brought the Colemans aboard the doomed vessel.

Tia Coleman said her family initially lined up for the wrong tour, so they had to switch out their tickets for the 6:30pm ride.

The crew showed passengers where the life jackets stored on the boat, but said they would not need them, Coleman added.

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