Missouri duck boat survivor recalls accident that killed 9 of her family members

Sunday, July 22, 2018
Missouri duck boat survivor recalls accident that killed 9 of her family members
Missouri duck boat survivor recalls accident that killed 9 of her family members. Victor OQuendo reports during Action News at 11 p.m. on July 21, 2018.

An emotional vigil was held overnight Friday for the 17 people killed when a tourist duck boat capsized during a severe thunderstorm in Missouri.

Flowers were thrown into the water where the victims -- many of them children, one just a year old -- lost their lives.

ABC News' Victor Oquendo was in Branson where a survivor, who lost nine members of her family, talked about what happened when she was tossed into the water.

"I said, 'Lord, just let me die, let me die, I can't keep drowning, I just can't keep drowning.' And then I just let go," said Tia Coleman.

A look at the history of deadly duck boat accidents.

Coleman's sister-in-law was among the nine family members who died, according to ABC News.

"She was there with her 13-year-old, soon to be 3-year-old. I was there with my husband and our three children, who were 9, 7, and 1. My in-laws were there, my mother in law and my father in law and then uncle that lives with them."

Coleman's 13-year-old nephew was her only relative to survive.

"I couldn't see anybody," she said. "I couldn't hear anything. I couldn't hear screams, it felt like I was out there on my own."

She described the horrifying moments when the duck boat reached the lake.

"Everybody start getting like, 'Hey? This is a little bit too much,' and then it got really choppy and big swells of water started coming into the boat," Coleman said.

The boat was enveloped by water.

Coleman recalled: "The last thing I heard my sister-in-law yell was, "Grab the baby!

"I said, 'Jesus just keep me, just keep me so I can get to my children, keep me Lord.' And I can swim and I was swimming as fast as I could and I could not reach the life jackets. I swam over to the boat and I was holding on but my legs and arms were so heavy from trying, they were so heavy," she said.

Coleman said there were life jackets on board the boat.

"They showed us where they were, but they told us, 'Don't worry about it, you won't need it,'" she said. "When that boat is found, all those life jackets are going to be in there. You weren't supposed to grab them unless you were in distress, which we were. Definitely, life-changing, life-altering event."


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