Branson, MO. – Tia Coleman lost nine members of her family in the duck boat disaster in stormy weather that took the lives of 17 people.
Thought tears, she told a press conference that as waves smashed into their boat, she remembered one member of her family shouting: “grab the babies.”
But the captain of the boat owned by Ride the Ducks based in Orlando, Florida didn’t ask them to grab life jackets that were stowed on top.
The company is owned by Vancouver’s Jim Pattison group’s Ripley’s division, which acquired Ride the Ducks in December 2017. It is led by Jim Pattison’s son, Jim Pattison Jr. who was quoted by US television stations saying the boat should not have been in the water in rough weather.
However, Pattison said the weather was calm at the time the amphibious vessel entered the water. A bad weather warning had been issued a half-hour prior to the disaster.
In her hospital press conference, Coleman said a final wave swamped the boat and she said she hit her head on something. She remembers sinking to the bottom of the lake and felt the water was cold.
Coleman said she was struggling to get to the top and was praying. But she wasn’t rising to the surface.
“I was yelling, I was screaming, and finally I said, ‘Lord, just let me die, let me die.’
When she gave up, she started to rise to the surface and felt the water getting warmer. There, a larger boat was nearby and people on board the vessel had started throwing life jackets to those in the water. She couldn’t grab one.
She said the “angels” on that boat pulled her up.
“My heart is very heavy. Out of 11 of us there’s only two that’s surviving, that’s me and my nephew” Ms Coleman, her voice breaking, told Fox59 from her hospital bed prior to her news conference.
“I lost all of my children. I lost my husband. I lost my mother-in-law and my father-in-law,” along with other relatives, she told the Indianapolis TV station.
The sheriff’s office identified them as:
Angela Coleman, 45, of Indiana
Arya Coleman, 1, of Indiana
Maxwell Coleman, 2, of Indiana
Reece Coleman, 9, of Indiana
Belinda Coleman, 69, of Indiana
Ervin Coleman, 76, of Indiana
Evan Coleman, 7, of Indiana
Glenn Coleman, 40, of Indiana
Horace Coleman, 70, of Indiana
Others who died were identified as:
Leslie Dennison, 64, of Illinois
Bob Williams, 73, of Missouri
Lance Smith, 15, of Arkansas
Steve Smith, 53, of Arkansas
William Ashner, 69, of Missouri
Rosemarie Hamann, 68, of Missouri
Janice Bright, 63, of Missouri
William Bright, 65, of Missouri
Prayer vigils have been held in many places and the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.