Duck boat passenger: Barge collision 'surreal'

Pictured: Duck boat survivor Sandy Cohen

July 8, 2010 10:21:47 AM PDT
A survivor of the collision between a barge and a duck boat in the Delaware River that dumped dozens of tourists into the water, leaving two Hungarian language students missing, called the experience "harrowing" and "surreal" Thursday.

It started out as just an inconvenience when smoke started to roll out of the boat's engine as it entered the water, Sandy Cohen, 67, told The Associated Press in a phone interview Thursday from her home in Durham, N.C.

The tour guide said a tug boat would be on its way to carry passengers back to shore, she recalled. She was on the phone with her husband to let him know she'd be late, but the call ended abruptly as other passengers screamed.

"Someone said, 'Oh my God, there's a barge coming, and it doesn't look like it's stopping,"' she said.

She grabbed for a lifejacket from a hook above her seat as the boat was struck and started to sink. She was quickly underwater, grabbing the jacket with one hand as her feet tangled up with those of others.

When she surfaced, she said, she realized one of the Hungarian teenagers on the boat was also hanging onto the same flotation device.

"I just told her, 'Don't let go,' and made sure we both stayed calm," she said.

They were rescued five to 10 minutes later.