Duck Boat Survivor Describes Pain Of Losing Entire Family In The Tragedy
The horrifying last words of one of the victims of the Branson, Missouri duck boat tragedy on Friday have been heard, and they are heart-wrenching.
Right before the Ride the Ducks boat capsized due to a severe thunderstorm and 60 mph winds with 31 people aboard, passengers and crew did whatever they could to save the lives of the children that were on board the doomed ship.
The tragedy claimed the lives of 17 people, including the hardest hit, the Coleman family from Indianapolis, who lost nine members in the tragedy with only two surviving.
Tia Coleman, who lost her husband and three children aged one to nine, spoke to her aunt from her hospital bed and told her what happened. Coleman’s aunt, Carolyn Coleman, spoke to MSN and relayed what Tia said.
“I asked her what was their last words … She said all she could hear and say was, ‘Grab the babies!’ And that was it. They got one group of waves and then they got a second one, and that’s when the boat started to sink,” Carolyn said.
The boat was not supposed to go on the water until 60 minutes into the tour, but the captain thought it would be a good idea to start the tour with the water part due to the warnings of the impending storm. It was a tragic decision.
“There was a warning…the warning people said take them out to the water first, before the storm hit,” Tia, 39, told KOLR from her hospital bed.
“I couldn’t see anybody, I couldn’t hear anything – I couldn’t hear screams – it felt like I was out there on my own,” she told Reuters.
“I was yelling, I was screaming and finally I said: ‘Lord, just let me die, let me die – I can’t keep drowning, I just can’t…” she said.
“Then I just let go, and I started floating, and I was floating to the top and I felt the water temperature raise to warm, and I jumped up and saw the big boat that sits out there,” she said.
“When I saw [the first responders helping survivors on the pier], they were throwing out life jackets to people. And I said: ‘Jesus keep me, just keep me so I can get to my children,’” Tia said.
The National Weather Service had issued a severe weather warning at 6:30 p.m., around 30 minutes before the boat sunk.
“I lost all my children, I lost my husband, I lost my mother in law, I lost my father in law, I lost my uncle, I lost my sister in law – she was my sister – and I lost my nephew, I’m ok, but this is really hard,” Tia told Fox 59.
“The captain told us ‘don’t worry about grabbing the life jackets, you won’t need them,’ so nobody grabbed them because we listened to the captain and he told us to stay seated,” she said. “However in doing that, when it was time to grab them it was too late. I believe that a lot of people could have been spared.”
Jim Pattison Jr, president of Ripley Entertainment, the company that owns the ship, explained the decision.
“Usually the lake is very placid and it’s not a long tour, they go in and kind of around an island and back,” he said. “We had other boats in the water earlier [on Thursday] and it had been a great, sort of calm experience.”
The boat, named the Stretch Duck 07, was built during World War II in 1944.