'Lord, let me die:' Duck boat tragedy kills nine members of the same family

- A candlelight vigil was held Friday night in Branson, Missouri for the people who lost their lives when a duck boat sank during a storm. 

The NTSB announced Friday that 17 people drowned when a tourist duck boat sank in a lake near Branson, Missouri, with a toddler as young as 1-year-old among the victims who never made it back to shore alive. 

Tia Coleman says she lost her whole family. Nine of the victims were her relatives from Indianapolis, including her husband and children. She explained to Reuters about the moments of terror when the boat went down. 

"I said, Lord, let me die. Let me die. I can't keep drowning, I just can't keep drowning cause that's how I felt," said Coleman from her hospital bed. 

Coleman said she thought it was the end for her . She was on board with ten family members.

A witness on a nearby vessel took video of the duck boat out on Table Rock Lake as it bobbed in choppy water as the sudden storm hit around 7pm Thursday night. 

"Then I just let go and I started floating. And I was floating up to the top. I felt the water temperature raise to warm," said Coleman, "I saw the big boat that sits out there, and when I saw them, they were throwing life jackets out to people and I said keep me lord, keep me, keep me so I could get to my children. Keep me lord."

Coleman said there were life jackets on board, but she says the Captain told them they wouldn't need life jackets.

Thirty-one people were on board for the adventure trip near Branson, Missouri, a popular vacation spot that is about 200 miles southeast of Kansas City. Seventeen never made it back to shore. The captain was one of the survivors. 

"We were shouting, trying to direct people. We saw a person here and saw one there and we actually saw one woman hanging on to the paddle of the Belle and she was holding on for dear life," said Brayden Malaske, a witness who took cell phone video. 

Another witness, Trent Behr said people rushed to try and save the duck boat passengers and crew.. 

"A lot of the wind started to pick up in the storm," Behr said, "And then all of a sudden we see all the staff just running back and forth with life jackets and AD's just trying to do the best they can to try to figure out where this is."

"No more missing.  The age range for the 17 was from 1 year old up to a 70 year old," said Sheriff Doug Rader of Stone County, Missouri.

"We'll look at the vessel, we'll look at the operation of the vessel, we'll look at the people involved, we'll look at the environment," said Earl Weener, a National Transportation Safety Board Member.

The NTSB and divers worked to recover the duck boat.

The amphibious vessels can operate on land and water. They were used in World War II to  transport troops, but have since become converted for tourist use. 

Critics say the boats are dangerous because they sit low in the water, are easily capsized and the canopy can trap people underneath when boats sink, according to a Philadelphia attorney who represented victims in a different duck boat incident.

"When they take on water enough to capsize, they sink quickly," said Andrew Duffy,  a partner at Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett And Bendesky who handled another duck boat tragedy, "Something needs to be done, these duck boats are death traps and need to be removed from the water and the land."

The incident is the deadliest duck boat accident in U.S. history since one of the boats sank in Arkansas in 1999, killing 13 people.

Ripley Entertainment, which purchased the Branson Ride the Duck boats last year says if there were storm warning, the boat should not have been on the water. 

 

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