Duck boat survivor Tia Coleman is telling her story about the tragic accident that killed nine of her family members and 17 passengers out of the 29 on board. The boat was part of a popular “Ride The Ducks” attraction and riders were swept overboard during a storm at Table Rock Lake.
The Washington Post reports that Coleman was alone when she came up for air.
“I said, ‘Lord, please, let me get to my babies,” she said to reporters Saturday. “If they don’t make it, Lord, take me too. I don’t need to be here.”
Coleman is currently recovering at a local hospital in Missouri.
Victims of the tragedy include her sister-in-law, nephew, mother-in-law, father-in-law, her husband, his uncle, and her three children. The only family members who survived the accident were Tia and her 13-year-old nephew. In a tragic twist, the family had initially purchased tickets for another ride, the Inquisitr reported.
“I couldn’t hear screams,” Coleman said to People. “It felt like I was out there on my own. And I was yelling, screaming and finally, 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.”
After the accident, the former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, James Hall, claimed that this style of vessel is not suitable for commercial use. Duck boats were initially created during Word War II to swarm beaches.
Hall says the boats should not be used recreationally and are susceptible to sinking due to design limitations. The canopies on top of the vessels make it nearly impossible to escape if they are tipped over.
The company that owns “Ride The Ducks” released a statement on the tragedy.
“We are deeply saddened by the tragic accident that occurred at Ride The Ducks Branson. This has deeply affected all of us. Words cannot convey how profoundly our hearts are breaking. We will continue to do all we can to assist the families who were involved.”
The Washington Post reports that the family had originally wanted to travel to Florida, but decided on Missouri instead. Passengers expected to escape the storm and were told they did not need to wear life jackets.
Coleman claims that the inclement weather was not declared an emergency at any point before the boat began to sink.
“Nobody, nobody — when that boat is found, all those life jackets are going to be on there,” Coleman said.