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 5:33 AM
Updated: Jul 23, 2018 5:45 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.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 297651

Reported Deaths: 6808
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19829231
Hinds18966395
Harrison16899283
Rankin12851265
Jackson12754234
Lee9722163
Madison9522204
Jones8042148
Forrest7295138
Lauderdale6879228
Lowndes6062140
Lamar593982
Lafayette5768114
Washington5235130
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Panola433798
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Warren4145115
Pontotoc411071
Marshall406595
Monroe3998129
Union397074
Neshoba3857171
Lincoln3630104
Hancock353378
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Tate304674
Pike302797
Scott296771
Alcorn292763
Yazoo292266
Itawamba290775
Coahoma283169
Tippah280265
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Simpson277881
Prentiss271258
Marion258878
Wayne255741
Leake254572
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Grenada248978
Adams235978
Newton233353
George232845
Winston222579
Jasper214545
Tishomingo213266
Attala210571
Chickasaw202054
Holmes183470
Clay179452
Stone173529
Tallahatchie171839
Clarke170773
Calhoun158728
Smith154333
Yalobusha146036
Greene128133
Walthall125441
Montgomery123540
Noxubee123431
Perry123335
Lawrence121621
Carroll119725
Amite112435
Webster111132
Jefferson Davis102931
Tunica99824
Claiborne99130
Benton94024
Humphreys93128
Kemper91523
Quitman77514
Franklin76520
Choctaw70317
Jefferson62927
Wilkinson62727
Sharkey49217
Issaquena1676
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 499819

Reported Deaths: 10148
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson720331403
Mobile36423741
Madison32708469
Tuscaloosa24457422
Montgomery22805523
Shelby22276219
Baldwin19935289
Lee15083161
Calhoun13963296
Morgan13801255
Etowah13419327
Marshall11460215
Houston10130264
Elmore9515190
Limestone9440139
St. Clair9057228
Cullman9000183
Lauderdale8630214
DeKalb8509175
Talladega7647165
Walker6601260
Jackson6552104
Autauga634792
Blount6256128
Colbert6010121
Coffee5261104
Dale4685107
Russell408134
Franklin400879
Covington3999107
Chilton3922104
Escambia379573
Tallapoosa3637143
Clarke344553
Chambers3434111
Dallas3428142
Pike293173
Marion288996
Lawrence286287
Winston258668
Bibb246558
Marengo245357
Geneva240670
Pickens226357
Barbour213951
Hale212969
Fayette202857
Butler201666
Henry183741
Cherokee178240
Monroe166739
Randolph165441
Washington157136
Macon147845
Crenshaw146955
Clay146254
Cleburne140341
Lamar133933
Lowndes133151
Wilcox123125
Bullock117736
Conecuh107224
Perry106427
Sumter101032
Coosa90324
Greene88932
Choctaw56123
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