SEVERE WX : Winter Storm Warning - Winter Weather Advisory View Alerts

Duck boat survivor describes sinking

Duck boat survivor Tia Coleman tells how she survived the incident that killed nine members of her family.

Posted: Jul 23, 2018 3:21 AM
Updated: Jul 23, 2018 3:45 AM

Tia Coleman's thoughts as she struggled to swim to the surface of the lake were focused on her family.

She and 10 of her relatives were on a family vacation from Indiana, taking a tour Thursday of Table Rock Lake near the Missouri tourist hotspot of Branson.

A treacherous squall sank the boat, sending Coleman down into cold, deep water.

She knew she had to go up to get to safety and to help her children.

"I said, 'Lord, please, I've got to get to my babies. I've got to get to my babies," she said Saturday at a news conference at at Cox Medical Center Branson, where she has been hospitalized since the incident that took 17 lives, including her husband, three children and five other members of her family.

Her children have always loved to swim, Coleman said. They had taken vacations to other lakes and to beaches.

"In our family, my oldest son is autistic so a lot of things normal families do, we don't always do," she said.

They went on the duck boat because her eldest could be himself on the boat, she said.

Passengers were told there was a storm coming before they went out on the water, Coleman said. The captain mentioned life jackets before they went onto the lake, she added, but he said, "you won't need them so we didn't grab them."

Coleman said she thinks if she had been able to get a life jacket to her children -- she had a son sitting next to her -- she could have saved them.

"I felt like, if I was able to get a life jacket I could have saved my babies because they could have at least floated up to the top and somebody could have grabbed them. And I wasn't able to do that," she said.

Coleman told reporters that she hit her head as she tried to exit the boat, possibly butting up against the canopy.

"The harder I was kicking to the top, I was pulled down," she said.

As she lost hope of surviving, Coleman just let go and started floating. She felt warmer water closer to the surface and reached out her hand.

When her head emerged from the lake, she looked around and saw a big riverboat docked nearby, but she didn't see anyone from her family.

All of them but a nephew had perished.

Coleman felt hands reaching down for her and then she realized she was being pulled out of the water.

When asked whether she is happy she made it out alive, Coleman said she doesn't know yet and only time will tell. But she thinks there is a reason she survived.

"God must have something for me because there's no way I should be here," she said.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 154062

Reported Deaths: 2194
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah31723527
Washington21001211
Marion18279284
Clackamas13289175
Lane10127124
Jackson8224110
Umatilla761481
Deschutes592258
Yamhill374564
Linn354956
Malheur333958
Polk301642
Klamath276854
Douglas240252
Benton230316
Josephine230349
Jefferson194127
Coos140119
Union127119
Columbia124121
Wasco121926
Lincoln112520
Hood River106129
Morrow104114
Crook77918
Clatsop7766
Baker6467
Curry4116
Tillamook4092
Lake3746
Harney2716
Grant2221
Wallowa1424
Gilliam531
Sherman530
Wheeler221
Unassigned00
Eugene
Cloudy
43° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 36°
Corvallis
Cloudy
43° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 37°
Roseburg
Cloudy
42° wxIcon
Hi: 51° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 38°
North Bend
Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 42°
KEZI Radar
KEZI Temperatures
KEZI Planner

LATEST FORECAST

Community Events