The survivor of a boat accident in a Missouri lake that killed 17 people, including nine members of her family, on Thursday night said many lives could have been saved had the captain of the vessel ordered all passengers to wear life jackets, multiple agencies report.
Instead, the unnamed captain assured them they “won’t need” life vests. When the moment came they desperately needed them, it was too late, said Tia Coleman who survived the accident along with her 13-year-old nephew.
The US ‘duck boat’ carrying 31 passengers and two crew members sank around 7pm amid a sudden storm in Table Rock Lake (pictured) near Branson city. Its driver died while the captain survived.
As passengers cried for help, people of a larger vessel sailing nearby jumped into the lake and pulled many to safety.
According to police, a storm suddenly hit the man-made lake around 6.15pm and a weather warning was issued 15 minutes later.
They declined to comment on the cause of the accident. The Coast Guard and a team from the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating it.
Duck boats have wheels that allow them to ride on land and float low on water. The unique feature and design of these vessels had raised concern over passenger safety.
Tia said from her hospital bed that her family would have been alive had the captain of the boat insisted that all passengers wear life jackets before the ride.
She lost her children, husband, mother-in-law, father-in-law and some relatives. Tia nearly drowned before she was spotted by rescuers of the second vessel.
The tragedy was particularly painful for her as the Colemans had bought tickets to board another boat, according to a witness who overheard them discuss the mix-up. They finally decided to buy fresh tickets and board the ill-fated boat.
The Colemans, a happy and close-knit family, had rented a van and travelled to Branson, a popular holiday destination, for their annual get-together.
Leslie Denninson, 64, another passenger on the duck boat, died a hero as she pushed her granddaughter up to safety, her family told the Kansas City Star.
William Bright, 65, and Janice, 64, of Higginsville were celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary in Branson when they decided to take a ride on the duck boat.
Bright’s sister, Karen Abbott, came to know about the boat accident only on Friday when her boss was discussing it. She immediately tried to call her brother and Janice to check whether they were safe but could not reach them. She realised that was their last ride.