STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

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 6:45 AM
Updated: Jul 23, 2018 6:45 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.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 150664

Reported Deaths: 4008
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion24697784
Lake13220352
St. Joseph8877159
Elkhart8469132
Allen7880222
Hamilton5962113
Vanderburgh559360
Tippecanoe354714
Monroe320738
Hendricks3183130
Johnson2995128
Porter297848
Clark285461
Delaware282074
Vigo252637
Madison229593
Cass222021
LaPorte215557
Warrick188464
Kosciusko176823
Floyd174867
Howard158866
Bartholomew139758
Dubois135125
Marshall132526
Henry122628
Grant120939
Wayne119327
Boone118848
Hancock114145
Noble113533
Jackson108713
Morgan92240
Dearborn91628
Daviess84033
Gibson83411
Clinton81616
Shelby79429
Lawrence78534
LaGrange76715
Harrison74024
Putnam71016
Knox70310
DeKalb69411
Posey6796
Steuben6008
Fayette58517
Miami5845
Montgomery57222
White56815
Jasper5624
Greene51837
Scott50813
Decatur49839
Adams4725
Clay4346
Whitley4316
Sullivan42812
Ripley4228
Wells4155
Starke3937
Wabash3919
Orange38725
Huntington3785
Spencer3706
Franklin36525
Jennings36013
Washington3592
Randolph3398
Fulton3362
Jefferson3305
Pike31913
Carroll31413
Perry29514
Jay2876
Fountain2863
Tipton26823
Parke2203
Newton21811
Vermillion2181
Rush2044
Owen2021
Martin1950
Blackford1923
Crawford1491
Pulaski1471
Brown1303
Ohio1227
Benton1070
Union1040
Switzerland890
Warren751
Unassigned0233

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 185639

Reported Deaths: 5083
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin30978635
Cuyahoga19436675
Hamilton16234338
Montgomery10083186
Lucas8175370
Butler8028123
Summit6555261
Warren406360
Stark3696178
Mahoning3635283
Marion335149
Pickaway296946
Delaware281127
Lorain266689
Fairfield257856
Licking248865
Wood244681
Clark242454
Clermont234937
Trumbull2221134
Greene219640
Columbiana210187
Allen203873
Miami195656
Lake188357
Medina180242
Portage156167
Mercer147128
Ross133833
Wayne131568
Richland128624
Tuscarawas123622
Athens11742
Erie113853
Darke110151
Madison103514
Hancock103023
Auglaize95116
Putnam91527
Lawrence90725
Shelby86814
Muskingum8434
Geauga83650
Scioto8059
Belmont78427
Union7343
Ashtabula72148
Huron69910
Sandusky69422
Preble59517
Seneca58514
Holmes57010
Ottawa56830
Fulton5056
Jefferson4564
Henry45317
Defiance44413
Jackson4417
Clinton43613
Fayette4328
Crawford4308
Highland4024
Logan4023
Champaign3873
Ashland3735
Brown3683
Knox36215
Perry35411
Washington33323
Morrow3312
Hardin32113
Williams3194
Coshocton29812
Pike2880
Guernsey2878
Wyandot28413
Gallia27913
Van Wert2333
Meigs21012
Adams2036
Carroll1917
Paulding1901
Hocking1899
Monroe15218
Noble1210
Vinton903
Harrison793
Morgan740
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 57°
Angola
Broken Clouds
55° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 55°
Huntington
Clear
56° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 56°
Decatur
Broken Clouds
55° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 55°
Van Wert
Broken Clouds
55° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 55°
Morning Rain Wednesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events