Missouri duck boat survivor recounts her experience

Geneva Stokes
July 23, 2018

The Colemans were on a family vacation when they boarded the amphibious tour boat that went down in about 40 feet of water during rough weather at Table Rock Lake.

Federal officials hope a video recorder recovered from a sunken duck boat can provide information about the minutes leading up to the sinking that killed 17 on Table Rock Lake on Thursday.

She described her ordeal to CBS Springfield, Missouri, affiliate KOLR, saying she "couldn't see anybody, I couldn't hear anything".

The captain was among those who survived. He also warned that the boat's canopy could make it hard for people to abandon the vessel safely - a concern raised after a duck boat sinking in 1999 which killed 13 people. "Only thing I think is, you know, God must have something for me because there is no way I should be here". The boat went down Thursday night in the Branson area after a thunderstorm generated near-hurricane strength winds.

"Salvage is not our purview", he said, referring questions about the raising of the duck to the Coast Guard and the owners of the Ride the Ducks Branson operation, Ripley Entertainment.

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Tia Coleman says she lost her whole family. Although a patrolman guarded their privacy, he allowed one attendee, Carmen Lawson, to deliver pink and red roses after the service to a family that lost nine members. "I believe that a lot of people could have been spared". Taking the boat out at that hour of Thursday evening was inexplicable, he said. After they stopped for a picture, she said, a ticket taker realized they should have boarded at a different location and reassigned them. Before long, the small, flat-bottomed half-boat half-bus sank, plunging 80 feet to the bottom of the lake. One crew member was among the dead. Martin says there is "no explanation" and that the family is suffering from survivors' guilt. "I don't know how I'm going to do it", Coleman said.

None of the 31 passengers on board was wearing a life jacket, according to an incident report released Saturday by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. "We will continue to do all we can to assist the families who were involved and the authorities as they continue with the search and rescue".

Coleman said the crew told passengers they were going into the water first, before the land-based part of their tour, because of the incoming storm.

A woman signs a poster outside the Ride the Ducks building in Branson on July 21, 2018.

Later, people on Malaske's boat saw a duck boat passenger "hanging on for dear life" to the paddle wheel of the Belle, he said. Nine were from IN, all from the Coleman family: Angela, 45; Belinda, 69; Ervin, 76; Glenn, 40; Horace, 70; Reece, 9; Eva, 7; Maxwell, 2; and Arya, 1. She added that none of the passengers had on life vests because the captain said they didn't need to "worry about grabbing the life jackets - you won't need them".

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