Survivor of the capsized Missouri duck boat says captain told passengers not to wear life jackets

Tia Coleman, who lost nine members of her family in the Branson, Missouri duck boat wreck Thursday, said that her loved ones would still be alive if the captain hadn’t told them not to bother with their life jackets.

“My husband would want me to say this. He would want the world to know that on this boat we were on, the captain had told us, 'Don’t worry about grabbing the life jackets — you won’t need them.’ So nobody grabbed them as we listened to the captain as he told us to stay seated,” Coleman told local TV news station FOX59.

If the captain, who survived, had been more concerned about using the personal floatation devices, more of the Coleman family would still be alive today, she told the news outlet.

“In doing that, when it was time to grab (the life vests), it was too late and I believe that a lot of people could have been spared,” she said in a phone interview from her hospital bed.

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Authorities say that 17 people lost their lives when the amphibious boat capsized in the churning water and 65 mph winds on Table Rock Lake in the southwestern part of the state.

The Coleman family suffered the most losses.

“My heart is very heavy. Out of 11 of us, only two of us surviving – that’s me and my nephew,” Coleman said. “I lost all my children, my brother-in-law.”

Adults Belinda Coleman, 69, Glenn Coleman, 40, Horace “Butch” Coleman, 70, Irvin Raymond Coleman, 76, and Angela Coleman, 45, and children Evan Coleman, 7, Reece Coleman, 9, Maxwell Coleman, 2, and Arya Coleman, 1, were all killed when the boat went down.

The Indiana family was on an annual family vacation. They weren’t supposed to be on that boat, but boarded after a ticket mix-up, according to Gary Coleman, who did not go on the trip.

Retired math teacher Steve Carroll, 53, and 15-year-old grandson, Lance, were also drown in the water when the Ride the Ducks boat went down.

Husband and wife, William and Janice Bright, who were celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary died on the boat as well, the Kansas City Star reported.

Leslie Dennison, 64, managed to save her 12-year-old granddaughter, by pushing her toward the surface as the boat sank, according to the Star. The Illinois woman did not survive.

St. Louis couple William Asher, 69, and his girlfriend, Rose Hamann, 68, also perished in the wreck, according to news station KMOV.

Investigators said the duck boat was returning to land about 7 p.m. when the choppy water proved too much for the boat. A video of the boat shows it struggling in the water, unable to advance because of the driving wind and high waves.

Tia Coleman said she was devastated by the loss.

“The only thing that I would like to be done but can’t, is to bring my family back,” she said.

With News Wire Services.