herald

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Duck boat survivor recalls last moments

Tia Coleman lost nine relatives. Photo: AP
Tia Coleman lost nine relatives. Photo: AP

A mother who lost nine relatives in a tourist boat accident in the US has recalled her sister-in-law's last words.

Tia Coleman said she heard her brother's wife shout "grab the baby" after the tourist boat they were on sank into a lake in Missouri, killing 17 people.

A huge wave hit, scattering passengers on the vessel, known as a duck boat, into Table Rock Lake near Branson, Ms Coleman said. She was alone when she came up for air.

Ms Coleman recalled spotting the rescue boat and managed to reach it.

CHILDREN Her husband and three children, aged nine, seven and one; her sister-in-law and two-year-old nephew; her mother-in-law and father-in-law and her husband's uncle all died on Thursday.

Others killed included a Missouri couple who had just celebrated a birthday; another Missouri couple on what was planned as their last extended vacation; an Illinois woman who died while saving her granddaughter's life; an Arkansas father and son, and a retired pastor who was the boat's operator.

None of the 31 passengers on board was wearing a life jacket, according to an incident report released by the State Highway Patrol.

An initial assessment blamed thunderstorms and winds that approached hurricane strength, but it was not clear why the vehicle, built for military use in World War II, even ventured into the water.

Ms 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.

The company has not commented on Ms Coleman's account of the tour, which usually begins with a tour of downtown Branson before the vessel enters the lake for a short ride on the water.

Ms Coleman and her 13-year-old nephew were the only survivors of the 11 members of her family who boarded the boat.

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