Boat tragedy wipes out family


Two Ride the Ducks amphibious tour boats departed the dock at Branson for an outing on Table Rock Lake.

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.

Coleman, sitting in a wheelchair and flanked by loved ones, said she didn't see a cloud in the sky when she boarded the Ride the Ducks boat with her family. I don't know who they were.

On Friday night, Carolyn, who lives in Georgia, said she called Tia while she was recovering at a hospital in Branson. "'... If they don't make it, Lord, take me too". At least 39 people have died in duck boat accidents in the past 20 years.

"I don't know if there's a recovery from it", she said.

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Nine of the 11 members of the Coleman family who boarded the boat on Thursday were killed, including four children under the age of 10. Hundreds of Branson and surrounding areas are gathering to pay their respects to the victims after a duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake during a thunderstorm on Thursday. 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. Mourners lit candles around cars left on the parking lot overnight - believed to belong to the victims.

"My head pushed up to the top of the water and I lost control, I didn't have anybody with me".

Divers are expected to swim down and connect the duck boat to a crane, which will then try to lift the boat from where it rests beneath 80 feet of water, according to a Coast Guard official.

Sixteen passengers and one crew member died in the accident.

Meteorologist Elisa Raffa of KOLR-TV in Springfield said in a phone interview Saturday that her station was forecasting the threat of severe weather all morning.

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"I couldn't hear screams, it felt like I was out there on my own", Coleman said.

One surviving relative claimed yesterday the boat's captain, who is in hospital, told the 31 passengers not to bother wearing life-jackets and to stay seated. "I gotta get to my babies, I gotta get to my babies, '" she said.

Under current regulations in Canada, life-jackets are required onboard a commercial boat, but passengers are not required to wear them. The boats sit low in the water, leaving them more susceptible to being overcome by water, especially when hit with 5-foot waves like those on Thursday.

The boats were originally designed for the military, specifically to transport troops and supplies in World War II.

And some tourists said other businesses in the area are already taking notice.

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"The bottom line is, why are these boats still being used?" Jim Pattison Jr., president of Ripley Entertainment, parent company of Ride the Ducks, said the storm came on suddenly and took the crew by surprise.