This past Thursday a Ride the Duck boat capsized in Missouri, resulting in the deaths of seventeen people on board.
A severe thunderstorm rapidly made conditions dangerous, and the passengers on board didn’t have much time before they realized their boat was sinking.
Once it started to go underwater, a scene of chaos unfolded as witnesses saying “they couldn’t see anything” while the passengers feverishly scrambled to save the children, some of their last words being “grab the babies!” before the boat became fully submerged.
Obviously, any loss of life is tragic – but for one family, in particular, it was immeasurable. Tia Coleman lost nine family members when the duck boat capsized this past week. Tia and her 13-year-old nephew, being the only ones the trip that survived.
The Coleman family tragically lost nine members ranging from age 76 to age 1 that day. Angela, 45; Arya, 1; Belinda, 69; Ervin, 76; Evan, 7; Glenn, 40; Horace, 70; Maxwell, 2; and Reece, 9.
Among the dead were Tia’s husband and her three children, ages one to nine.
Coleman talked to a CNN affiliate, KOLR, in which she described her experience of nearly drowning. She explained how once she was under water she couldn’t see or hear a thing but miraculously rose to the top of the water.
“And I started floating … to the top. I felt the water temperature rise to warm … and I saw the big boat that sits up there,” she said, referring a boat docked nearby. “And when I saw they were throwing out life jackets to people and I said, ‘Jesus keep me, just keep me so I can get to my children. Keep me, Lord.’ ”
A CNN affiliate was informed by Gary and Carolyn Coleman, relatives of Tia’s family, that the Coleman’s were on an annual family vacation, coming from Indiana to Missouri.
“I’m just lost,” Gary Coleman told WSB. “I don’t know. I can’t place it. I can’t imagine it. We’ve had a death in the family. One or two, (but) not a whole family at one time.”
Carolyn also commented that she has spoken to Tia who is still in the hospital, who said that she tried as hard as she could to save the children.
‘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 Coleman told MSN.
Tia told Reuters that her experience trying to get out of the sinking boat was horrifying.
“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 said.
“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… 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.”
“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,” she added.
Missouri Governor Mike Parson spoke to Tia Coleman and said: “I had a chance to talk to her (Tia Coleman), and it’s difficult to find the right words to say other than (our) thoughts and prayers are with her.”
Many are angry with the Duck boat company, arguing that those on board should have been required to wear life preservers.
Karen Abbott, who lost her brother in the accident, said that it was completely unacceptable that the company does not require those on board to wear life preservers.
“[Ride the Ducks Branson] take people on water where no one knows how deep it is, in a vehicle that goes on land and water. They don’t make you wear life jackets! It’s ridiculous!” she said.
“I think this company should have their ass sued off of them and every penny they made should be returned to every victim that’s ever lost their lives in this,” she added.
People gathered in Brunson, Missouri, to hold vigils and mourn for those who had died in the tragic accident.
During one vigil, 300 people gathered and sang “Amazing Grace” together.
“Even though we may not know any of them it doesn’t matter,” said Tammy Miesner, 54, of Branson. “It’s a part of our lives to be there for each other.”