Missouri duck boat tragedy: Mum heard sister-in-law shout 'grab the baby!' before she drowned
21 July 2018, 20:51
A grieving mother whose nine relatives died in the Missouri duck boat disaster heard her sister-in-law shout "grab the baby!" before a huge wave struck the vessel.
Tia Coleman has also revealed how the family only ended up joining the 6.30pm tour on Thursday because of a ticketing mix-up.
She told the Missouri-based TV network KOLR that she and her 10 relatives first went to the wrong duck boat business but then switched their tickets.
Mrs Coleman's three children - Reece, 9, Evan, 7, and Arya, 1 - died in the accident on Table Rock Lake in the country music tourist town of Branson.
The mother and her 13-year-old nephew were the two members of the Indiania-based family who survived.
She told KOLR: "A really huge wave swept over and when that wave swept over, the last thing I heard my sister-in-law yell was 'grab the baby'."
Describing the moments she struggled in the water, she added: "I said Jesus please, keep me, just keep me so I can get back to my children, keep me Lord.
"And I was swimming, I was swimming as fast as I could, (but) I could not reach the life jackets."
Mrs Coleman then described how she swam to a rescue boat on the lake.
Stone County sheriff's department has identified the six other deceased members of her family as Angela, 45, Belinda, 69, Ervin, 76, Glenn, 40, Horace, 70, and Maxwell, two.
One of the men was Mrs Coleman's husband.
The widow has since claimed that the captain of the boat told passengers they would not need life jackets.
The disaster left 17 of the boat's 31 passengers dead.
Five of those who died were children.
Janice Bright, 63, and William Bright, 65, had recently celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary before they were killed in the disaster.
Bob Williams, 73, who was operating the boat, was also among those who died.
The cause of the tragedy is yet to be confirmed, but an initial assessment has blamed a thunderstorm and winds that approached hurricane strength.
The National Weather Service had issued a severe thunderstorm watch for the area on Thursday, saying conditions were ripe for 70mph winds.
They followed up with a severe thunderstorm warning for three counties that included Branson and Table Rock Lake.
It is not clear why the vessel, which went down roughly 40 minutes after the alert, ventured out onto the water in those conditions.
The National Transportation Safety Board has said it might take as long as a year to finish a report on what caused the amphibious vehicle to capsize.
The NTSB has reportedly said it will be on the scene for the next seven to 10 days.
Duck boats, named as such for their ability to travel on land and water, have been involved in the deaths of more than 40 people since 1999.
Five college students were killed in 2015 in Seattle when a duck boat collided with a bus.
Thirteen people died in 1999 when a boat sank near Hot Springs, Arkansas.
The amphibious vehicles were originally designed for the military, specifically to transport troops and supplies in the Second World War.
"The duck boat industry doesn't need to be reformed, it needs to be outlawed," US personal injury lawyer Jeffrey Goodman told Sky News.
"They're too wide for roadways, they have massive blind spots when they're being operated on land; and on the water they have buoyancy issues, they have stability issues; they tend to sink because they sit so low on the water.
"They have canopies overhead that when they do sink, trap passengers, drag hem down with it."
However, the boss of a firm that runs duck tours in Windsor in the UK told Sky News that his modern boats were much safer than the old Second World War-type that sank in Missouri, and met rigorous design standards.
"We are built as an open boat," said Graham Lumley.
"We can open the door on the side with a full load of passengers and remain upright and safe.
"If some sort of iceberg or missile strike should happen we have five large watertight compartments and many (more than 10) foam-filled compartments making it impossible for the vessel to sink."