Tia Coleman, a survivor of the tragic duck boat accident that claimed the lives of 17 people in Branson, Missouri, last Thursday, said this week she has been sustained by two things: her faith and her late husband’s effort to save their three children who also died in the catastrophe.
“Somebody told me that when they found my husband, he had all three of my babies,” Coleman told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in a Facebook Watch interview as tears streamed down her cheeks. “[T]hat right there will keep me fighting for my family forever.”
She went on to say she will always find comfort in the fact that her husband “did exactly what he always told me when we first met: ‘I will always take care of you and our children.’”
Coleman along with 10 of her relatives were on vacation from Indiana. Not long before the horrific accident, she and her family posed for a photo, clearly excited about the adventure on which they would soon embark.
My heart shatters when I think of Tia Coleman & when I look at this photo. She and her family seen here, happy & excited to board the duck boat for a ride while on vacation. She’d then lose all but 1 of them, including her 3 children & husband. Her nephew the only other survivor. pic.twitter.com/W5O1fQ1bQ4
— Erica Rakow (@EricaRakow) July 24, 2018
But the normally playful trip turned into a nightmare when a storm came while they were out on the lake. As the storm swept across the water, their ship was capsized, claiming the lives of nine of her family members. Coleman and her 13-year-old nephew were the only two survivors from their family.
When Coleman and her family first boarded the duck boat, she said, crew members told them where the life jackets were, but assured the family they would not need to wear them, claiming the boat could take sustain pretty sizable waves.
“As the first big wave came in, it looked like the water came into the boat then it washed out the back,” Coleman said, recalling holding their oldest son, who is on the autism spectrum. “When the last big wave came in, I lost a hold of my baby. I didn’t know the boat had capsized. I thought it just went under. I jumped up and immediately started floating.”
Once she realized the boat had capsized, Coleman said she started trying to swim but was completely disoriented. She told Cooper, “I remember praying, ‘Lord, let me get to my babies. Lord, let me get to my babies.’ I couldn’t get to them.”
Coleman said she eventually started feeling warmer water, realizing she was finally reaching the surface. So she reached her hand out toward a nearby docked riverboat and was pulled to safety. She didn’t see any of her family until her one surviving nephew “came running out.”
On Monday night, Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church in Indianapolis hosted a prayer vigil for Coleman’s family.
— Nick McGill (@NickMcGillTV) July 24, 2018
At the end of her conversation with Cooper, Coleman had a simple but important message for the others who survived the tragic duck boat accident: “We all went through something extremely traumatic, they should never feel guilty for surviving.”
Please continue to pray for Coleman, her family, and the families of all those who lost loved ones in the accident last week. Consider donating to a GoFundMe campaign set up to help cover necessary costs for Coleman and her family.