Tia Coleman is one of the people who boarded to the duck boat tour that capsized in Missouri, in which 17 people lost their lives including nine members of Coleman’s family. She claimed that the vessel’s captain told people, who aboard the duck boat tour, to not worry about grabbing life jackets as the duck boat was rocking in the Table Rock Lake.
Tia, who is admitted to the hospital as she’s recovering from pneumonia and other injuries she got in the tragic accident, talked to FOX59 on the phone from the hospital on July 20, Friday.
Tia recalled of the caption’s alleged message, “The captain had told us, ‘Don’t worry about grabbing the life jackets, you won’t need them.’” She added that the captain gave that message as they were in the duct boat was rocking in the rough waters of the Table Rock Lake. “So nobody grabbed them because we listened to the captain as he told us the safety [rules].”
“However, in doing that, when it was time to grab them, it was too late,” she continued. “I believe that a lot of people could have been spared.”
Ripley’s Entertainment, which operates and owns the Ride the Ducks tour has yet to comment about Tia’s recent claims.
Tia lost nine members of her family in the tragic accident that took place on July 19, Thursday, including Tia’s husband, Glenn Coleman, 40, and their three kids — Arya Coleman, 1, Evan Coleman, 7, and Reece Coleman, 9.
Only Tia and her nephew, 13, managed to survive out of the whole family. Tia’s 13-year-old nephew’s mom Angela Coleman, 45, and 2-year-old brother, Maxwell Coleman, 2, also died in the accident.
Other family members who have been killed in the accident included Horace Coleman, 70, Ervin Coleman, 76, and Belinda Coleman, 69.
“My heart is very heavy,” Tia told the outlet. “Out of 11 of us, only two of us surviving… I lost all my children. I lost my husband. I lost my mother-in-law and my father-in-law. I lost my uncle. I lost my sister-in-law. And I lost my nephew. I’m okay but this is really hard. This is really hard.”
“There’s not much that can be done,” she told FOX59. “The only thing that I would like to be done that can’t be is to bring my family back. Keep praying for me. … We’ve lost so much.”
Tia took the duck boat tour with 30 other passengers while she was visiting from Indiana. The boat turned over and sunk because of the stormy weather at around 8 p.m. ET, according to Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader. The NBC News reported that the thunderstorm winds were as high as 60 mph at the time of the accident. The boat that killed many innocent people remains at the bottom of the Table Rock Lake.
The Associated Press reported that a severe thunderstorm warning had been issued for Branson at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday.
Tia told the outlet of weather, “There was a warning.” She claimed, “the warning people said, ‘Take them out to the water first before the storm hits.’”
“Since I don’t know the route, I’m not sure if we went to the water first or if we went to the town first,” she continued. “It took awhile to get to the water. So I’m just unsure.”
Tia said that she felt motion the whole time, as they were on a boat. “The water didn’t look ominous at first, it looked like normal water,” she said. “And then it started looking very choppy.”
Tia said in a tearful video interview from the hospital — obtained by several outlets, including KOLR10 and WSYX6 — that the caption never told them to use the life jackets.
— WSYX ABC 6 (@wsyx6) July 21, 2018
“They told us they’re up here, this is where they are — they showed us where they were,” Tia said. “But ‘Don’t worry about it, you won’t need it.’ And we said, ‘Okay.’”
“So when the captain took over, I thought that at some point he would say grab the jackets now. But we were told to stay seated, and everybody stayed seated,” she revealed. “Nobody grabbed it.”
“When that boat is found, all those life jackets are going to be in there. Nobody pulled one off. You weren’t supposed to grab them unless you were in distress, which we were, but he told us we don’t need them. It was, I don’t know what to say, definitely… [a] life-altering event,” Tia added.
She didn’t know that the boat in which her entire family was chilling was sinking until it was too late.
Tia said in a heartbreaking video interview, “Once [the caption] takes over, this big huge wave’s choppy, everybody started getting like, ‘Hey, this is getting a little bit too much.” She continued, “And then it got really choppy and big swells of water started coming in to the boat. Then a really huge wave swept over, and when that wave swept over, the last thing I heard my sister-in-law say was ‘Grab the baby.’”
“My head pushed up to the top of the water and I lost control, I didn’t have anybody with me,” she went on to explain that escaping sinking boat was a real nightmare. “I couldn’t see anybody. And I know it wasn’t but I felt like I struggled for at least an hour, but it was probably like 10 minutes. And I just remembered I kept sinking, I kept sinking.”
“I couldn’t see anybody, I couldn’t hear anything, I couldn’t hear screams” she said. “It felt like I was out there on my own. I was yelling and I was screaming. And finally I said, ‘Lord, just let me die. I can’t keep drowning.’ That’s how I felt.”
She said that she “started floating to the top” and that she “felt the water temperature raise to warm.”
She shared first responders were waiting in a boat and were trying to help the survivors of the tragic accident.
“They were throwing out life jackets to people,” she added. “And I said, ‘Jesus keep me, just keep me so I can get to my children.’”