Missouri duck boat survivor recounts her experience

"Grab the baby!" Those were the last words Tia Coleman recalls her sister-in-law yelling before the tourist boat they were on sank into a Missouri lake, killing 17 people, including nine of Coleman's family members.

"When we issue a warning, it means take action", meteorologist Kelsey Angle said.

Investigators want to know "when did the driver and (captain) of this vessel know about this storm forecast?"

Another survivor was 12-year-old Alicia Dennison, of IL, who says her grandmother, 64-year-old Leslie Dennison, saved her from drowning.

Federal officials have warned tourists for almost 20 years about the dangers posed by amphibious tour boats, which have spotty and sometimes contradictory safety regulations because they are neither entirely boat nor bus. When did they decide that? "Gillian said the captain was freaking out", says Keller.

An email message seeking comment from Ripley Entertainment about Coleman's comment was not immediately returned.

"That's what happened during Thursday evening, he said, based on a video of the tragic accident".

Suzanne Smagala with Ripley Entertainment, which owns Ride the Ducks in Branson, said the company was assisting authorities. "And partway through coming back is when ... the waves picked up and then obviously swamped the boat".

"He loved big hugs and warm kisses", said Coleman through tears.

Life jackets were on the boat, but there is no regulation mandating that duck boat passengers wear them, Pattison said Friday. But the National Weather Service before noon had predicted the possibility of serious storms and high winds by late Thursday afternoon; the boat sank at about 7 p.m.

The governor noted that the boats are under the jurisdiction of the Coast Guard once they leave the shore.

But Paul said the boat would have been heavily modified to make it longer so that only part of it dates to World War II.

TRAGEDY IN MISSOURI People in Branson Mo. look at idled duck boats yesterday two days after 17 people were killed on a tour. Laws regulating the tourist vehicles in Massachusetts were updated two years ago improving safety but could be changed again
Authorities hold press conference on duck boat capsizing

The trip turned fatal just two days later, after all of them got on an amphibious vehicle for what should have been a 70-minute guided tour around a lake in the Ozarks.

Sixteen passengers and one crew member died in the accident. Accidents in and out of the water have marred their popularity and forced some companies to shut down their businesses. Thirteen people died in 1999 when a boat sank near Hot Springs, Arkansas. Thirteen of the 21 people aboard died. "The canopy on the Miss Majestic was a major impediment to the survival of the passengers".

The agency has also recommended the highway administration regulate the vehicles for over-the-road travel with requirements for passenger seat belts, while saying that passengers shouldn't wear seat belts while the vehicle is in the water.

The Ride the Ducks tour begins in downtown Branson, where the vehicles take passengers on a tour while the captain cracks jokes and points out landmarks.

"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".

Friday, US Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri, said the recommendations were never enacted into law.

"I can only imagine what they were going through. It's just heartbreaking", said friend Russ McKay, who said talked to Hamann the day before the accident. "They are death traps and sinking coffins", he told CNN.

The company's website had been taken down by Saturday, save for a statement that its operations would remain shuttered to support the investigation and allow time for families and the community to grieve. The names of the crash victims were released Saturday morning.

A GoFundMe has been set up for the Coleman family to help with funeral arrangements.

One of those two survivors, Tia Coleman, has spoken out about the incident in which17 people were killed when the boat capsized in Table Rock Lake amid a severe thunderstorm. But she thinks there is a reason she lived.

"But I believe I survived by God and by good Samaritans", she said. But when the water filled up the boat.

"I said, 'Lord, please, I've gotta get to my babies". "That canopy becomes what I'll call a people catcher, and people can't get out from under that canopy". Among them were nine members of the Coleman family, including four children, ages 1, 2, 7 and 9.

  • Jon Douglas