If you have not heard about the Branson duck boat tragedy, it truly lives up to its name. One woman who survived the accident, but lost nine of her family members in the accident is now speaking out about what happened.
Tia Coleman lost nine family members in the duck boat accident and she recently spoke to reporters at the Bromley Cox Medical Center. She said that the captain of the ship reviewed instructions but said that they did not need to don a lifejacket.
“You don’t need ’em,” she recalled him saying. “So, nobody grabbed them.”
Bob Williams, who was the captain at the time also died in the accident. Among the victims were Coleman’s husband Len, three of their children and other family members.
When the bad weather struck, Coleman thought that they would have to grab their life jackets. She was told something quite different:
“I thought that at some point [the captain] would say grab the jackets now. But we were told to stay seated, and everybody stayed seated,” Coleman said. “Nobody grabbed them.”
Coleman’s son had autism so they decided to go on the boat ride. She believes that he would have survived if he had been wearing a life jacket.
“In our family, my oldest son is autistic so a lot of things normal families do, we don’t always do,” she said. “I felt like, if I was able to get a life jacket I could have saved my babies because they could have at least floated up to the top and somebody could have grabbed them. And I wasn’t able to do that.”
“When that boat is found, all those life jackets are going to be on there because nobody pulled one off,” Coleman said.
“I’ve always loved water, I don’t know if it’s a Pisces or what, I’ve always loved water,” Coleman told CNN. “But when that water came over the boat, I didn’t know what happened. I had my son right next to me. But when the water filled up the boat, I could no longer see. I couldn’t feel anybody.”
Coleman says she may have bumped her head while she was saving herself.
“The harder I was kicking to the top, I was pulled down,” she said. “I said, ‘Lord, please, I’ve got to get to my babies. I’ve got to get to my babies.”
Coleman was not able to save any of her children. There were 11 of her family members on the boat when it sank but only she and her nephew survived.
Coleman had given up trying to save herself at one point. She thought that there was no way for them to be rescued. She was floating when she reached warmer water. When she came up out of the water, she has a memory of somebody pulling her.
“They were beautiful people, they were angels,” she said. “When they pulled me up I didn’t see any of my family.”
Coleman doesn’t know if she will ever recover emotionally.
“I’ve never had to recover from something like this…I don’t know if there is a recovery,” she said during the press conference. “I would ask everybody to remember my family as the beautiful people they were.”
“God must have something for me because there’s no way I should be here,” she said.
A Gofundme page was already established to help her recover. It has raised well over $400,000 so far.
Karen Abbott also lost two members of her family in the accident but she was not in the boat. Her brother and sister-in-law died when the boat sank. She says the negligence of the company is to blame.
“It’s ridiculous,” she said. “They don’t make you wear life jackets. They say, ‘Oh, they’re available if you want to put them on,’ but they don’t make you wear it.”
Since 1994, 24 people have died on duck boat incidents in the United States.