It was her family’s annual summer road trip, but it turned unexpectedly deadly.
In southern Missouri last week, nine of the 17 people who died in a tragic duck boat accident were related to 34-year-old Tia Coleman.
She had traveled from Indianapolis for a summer trip with her three children, husband, and her husband’s father, mother, uncle, sister, and two nephews, according to The New York Times. Of that group, only Coleman and her 13-year-old nephew, Donovan, survived.
A severe thunderstorm with 75 m.p.h. wins, heavy rain, and lightning hit Table Rock Lake while the duck boat — named as such because they can travel on both land and water — was making its 15- to 20-minute loop around the water for the tourist attraction.
“Lord, please let me get to my babies,” she prayed at one point, recalling the ordeal at a news conference on Saturday. “If they don’t make it, Lord, take me, too,” she said.
“Don’t worry about what the world puts on you, make your own new world.” Beautiful words to live by from survivor Tia Coleman. She lost her children, her husband & several other family members in the duck boat accident in Branson, Missouri. #BransonMissouri #BransonStrong pic.twitter.com/ll5Rdf8BwI
— Olivia McClellan (@OliviaMNews) July 21, 2018
The weather had looked fine when they took off from land; Coleman said the two workers on the boat told them they didn’t need to put on life jackets.
“If I was able to get a life jacket, I could have saved my babies,” she said at a news conference over the weekend. “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.”
Duck boats have a problematic safety history. After an accident sank one in Hot Springs, Arkansas in 1990 and killed 13 people, the National Transportation Safety Board ordered new safety safety regulations. “Once the boats take on too much water, the N.T.S.B. found at the time, they have a hard time staying afloat,” reports the Times.
Fourteen people survived the accident, including the boat’s captain. When Coleman was asked how she was going to move forward, she said, “Going home, I already know it’s going to be completely, completely difficult … I don’t know how I’m going to do it. Since I’ve had a home, it’s always been filled with little feet and laughter. And my husband,” she said. “I don’t know if there is a recovery from this.”
Below, watch Coleman speaking about the tragedy — and how she survived — at a news conference over the weekend.
Read the full story at The New York Times.