Eleven members of the Coleman family climbed into a “Ride the Ducks” amphibious boat for what was supposed to be a pleasant tour of Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri.
However, a storm rolled in fast, and the boat was lashed by strong waves, slowly sinking as it tried to push its way to shore. In the end, 9 members of the family were dead from drowning, including four small children, and two others survived the July 19, 2018 tragedy. The family is from Indianapolis, Indiana.
Tragically, another passenger claims the family wasn’t supposed to be on the boat in the first place but ended up on the duck due to a mix-up.
According to authorities, the deceased members of the family were named as Angela Coleman, 45; Arya Coleman, 1; Belinda Coleman, 69; Ervin Coleman, 76; Evan Coleman, 7; Glenn Coleman, 40; Horace Coleman, 70; Maxwell Coleman, 2 and Reece Coleman, 9.
Alexis McAdams, a reporter for Fox 59 TV shared the below photo of the Coleman family and wrote, “This is the Coleman family. Only two family members remain after the duck boat they were on capsized in Branson Missouri.” Here is a GoFundMe page to help the Table Rock victims. Here is a page to help Tia Coleman, who survived the tragedy along with her nephew. Tia lost her husband and all three of her children along with the other relatives.
The heartbreaking story of the family’s fate punctuated an already horrific tragedy in which 17 people, some of them children, lost their lives. There were 31 people on the boat, including two crew members. Robert “Bob” Williams was the first victim identified in the “Ride the Ducks” tragedy. According to CNN, Williams was the driver of the boat. He was 73-years-old.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. One of the Two Surviving Members of the Family Says Her ‘Heart Is Heavy’ & Her Home Was Always Filled With ‘Little Feet & Laughter’
Tia Coleman, who, along with her nephew, was the only family member to survive the tragedy, spoke at an emotional and heartbreaking press conference on July 21.
“I’ve had tons of family members and friends sending requests and asking how I’m doing and supporting. That’s the only way I’m getting through this. Through God. A lot of people here in the city, I’ve had pastors in the city come and they’ve prayed for me and said they’ll keeping me in their thoughts and prayers. That’s the best way I’m getting through it,” said Tia.
“Going home I already know is going to be completely difficult. I don’t know how I’m going to do it. Since I’ve had a home it’s always been filled. It’s always been filled with little feet and laughter. And my husband, I don’t know how I’m going to do it. I just know that I’ll continue to need the support of my family, my friends and even my extended family and friends who I haven’t met. I’ll need that.”
WXIN also spoke to Tia Coleman.
“My heart is very heavy. Out of 11 of us, only two of us surviving – that’s me and my nephew,” said Tia. “I lost all of my children. I lost my husband. I lost my mother-in-law and my father-in-law. I lost my uncle. I lost my sister-in-law … and I lost my nephew.” Tia’s three children and husband were among those lost.
Tia Coleman also told the television station, “The only thing that I would like to be done but can’t, is to bring my family back,” and she alleged that the duck’s captain told the passengers, “don’t worry about grabbing the life jackets – you won’t need them,” so her family members didn’t take them.
She told OzarksFirst, “I couldn’t see anybody, I couldn’t hear anything. I couldn’t hear screams, it felt like I was out there on my own. And I was yelling, screaming, and finally, I said Lord, just let me die, let me die, I can’t keep drowning, I just can’t keep drowning. And then I just let go.”
But she survived, explaining to the news site, “And I started floating. I was floating up to the top, I felt the water temperature raise to warm, and as I felt the water temperature raise I jumped up and I saw the big boat that sits out there.”
Rescuers and divers called off the search around midnight the night of the tragedy, with five people still missing, and children among the dead. However, the bodies of two of the missing were then found. Authorities then changed the missing count and said four people remained missing. They later said that all people were now accounted for. Of those in the hospital, at least three are under age 18. The dead range in age from 1 to more than 70, the Stone County Sheriff, Doug Rader, revealed.
Rader said in a news conference that the victims perished from drowning. Seven other people were taken to the hospital; two of the wounded are in critical condition, according to a local hospital. The boat carried 29 tourists and 2 crew members.
“This is going to be an all night and into tomorrow, we’re still going to be working on this,” the sheriff said. One dive team was in the water as the sheriff spoke late in the evening hours of July 19, 2018, and another dive team was on the way. Family members should go to Branson City Hall for information, he said. “I believe it was caused by the weather,” the sheriff added of the tragedy. “It capsized and sank…The duck is still in the water… it sank.”
The NTSB is investigating.
The owner, Jim Patterson, told CNN the waters were calm when the duck went out, and the storm hit as it came back. “We’re absolutely devastated,” he said.
2. The Nine Family Members Had Ties to an Apostolic Church in Indianapolis & Were Originally Going to Take a Different Boat
The family was from Indianapolis, Indiana. “Pastor confirms that nine people involved in the #Missouri #duckboat accident had connections to Zion Tabernacle Apostolic Faith Church in Indianapolis. We’ve also learned seven of them have died, including several children,” reported Trevor Shirley of Fox 59 on Twitter.
“I’ve been raised what I call the right way,” said Tia in the press conference. “I’ve been raised in an apostolic church my whole life. I also have a ton of family praying for me and being behind me. As soon as they found out, they left in the middle of the night to come down. My pastor came down… “
In one of the most emotional parts of the news conference she gave on July 21, Tia described each family member.
“I want them to be remembered how they were,” Tia said of her family. “I lost nine people. I lost my husband… he was so loving…To remember my babies. My oldest son was Reece, who was on the autism spectrum, but he made every day worth living and knowing. He was the happiest and sweetest little boy anybody could want to meet.” Her son Evan, 7, was “extremely smart, quick and witty and he loved life. He was a great brother. A big brother and a little brother.”
Her baby Arya was “only 1 and she had a thousand personalities wrapped up into her 1. She would blow kisses. She would fight. She was a little fireball and my only girl.” She said her uncle Ray was “the oldest of the Colemans. He liked to laugh and have a good time. My father-in-law who had a heart of gold. He would give anything to anybody. My mother-in-law who was like a second mom…she was always there with a supportive word. My sister-in-law, who I call my sister…she was so loving, and she would do anything for her family. My nephew Max…the sweetest baby ever. He loved big hugs and warm kisses.”
3. The Family Spent Time at a Restaurant & in the Hotel Pool in Branson Before the Tragedy
Tia said the family was staying in a hotel and the “kids always liked to swim” so they all went down to the water and had a good time in the pool.
She went in the hot tub and remembered “all these little bodies coming in there with me.”
“They always loved to be around family. We ended up going out to eat while we were here.”
They went to the Golden Corral. She told the kids, “You’re on vacation so you can have whatever you want….They had cotton candy and rainbow sherbet.”
She added, “I enjoyed us being together and laughing at each other’s stories.”
She said they picked the duck boats because her son is autistic and so they don’t always do everything other families do. “They would make the situation fit for him. We have to do stuff where he can…be entertained…we thought that would work out for everybody… and it would be a good time. We had planned to go out to eat afterwards. On our family trips, we always tried to cater to the kids.” She said it was the family’s first time coming to Branson. The family had traveled to different places together.
Belinda Coleman, identified by authorities as one of the adult victims, first shared the family photo used by many news sites on Facebook in 2017 as her profile picture. “Great looking family,” wrote one man in the comment thread. “We come from good stock cuz,” Belinda wrote. Belinda shared the photo again on New Year’s and then on Christmas.
She wrote on Facebook that she had studied at George Washington Community High School, went to George Washington Community High School, and lived in Indianapolis.
People on the nearby Branson Belle helped with the rescue.
The boat was a “Ride the Ducks” boat, which is a popular tourist attraction in Branson. Southern Stone Fire, which is the lead agency responding to the scene, wrote earlier on, “Crews from multiple agencies are on scene of an MCI Mass Casualty Incident ‘tourist type boat involved’ this is on Table Rock Lake, Stone County, Branson Missouri. Taney County assisting. Several patients transported to area hospital. Divers on scene. Staging at Branson Belle. However the Branson Belle is not involved. More info to follow.”
The company posted a statement on its website that read: “We are deeply saddened by the tragic accident that occurred at Ride The Ducks Branson. This incident has deeply affected all of us. Words cannot convey how profoundly our hearts are breaking.We will continue to do all we can to assist the families who were involved and the authorities as they continue with the search and rescue. The safety of our guests and employees is our number one priority. Ride the Ducks will be closed for business while we support the investigation, and to allow time to grieve for the families and the community. Thank you for your support, and we ask that your thoughts and prayers be with the families during this time.”
4. Butch Coleman Previously Worked as a UPS Driver & Was Described as a ‘Community Legend’ & Glenn Coleman Shared Family Photos on Facebook
Butch Coleman wrote on Facebook that he was a former truck driver at UPS who was from Kentucky but lived in Indianapolis. He was described by people on social media as a “community legend” and family patriarch who volunteered in the community for 40 years.
“My boys,” wrote Belinda Coleman on a family photo posted by Glenn Coleman on Facebook.
Angela Coleman wrote on Facebook that she was an independent consultant and designer who managed an elegant food restaurant.
Tia Coleman gave this extremely detailed account of what happened on the boat:
“I’ve always loved water. I don’t know if it’s a Pisces or what. I always loved water. But when that water came over the boat, I didn’t know what happened. I had my son right next to me. But when the water filled up the boat, I could no longer see. I couldn’t feel anybody. I couldn’t see. I just remember, I got to get out, I got to get out. I don’t know if somebody pushed me or what happened. But I hit my head on the part of the boat and when I got out into the water, it was ice cold. And I remember as we were going into the water, they said that the lake stays pretty warm, like in the 80s. So, I knew since it being so cold that I was close to the bottom, I’m not close to the top. I just remember kicking and swimming, swimming up to the top, and as I was swimming up, I was praying, saying Lord, please, let me get to my babies, I’ve got to get to my babies. I’ve got to get to my babies. I’ve got to get to my babies. And I was kicking. And the harder I fought to get to the top, I was getting cooled down. And I kept fighting and I kept fighting. And then I said, Lord if I can’t make it, there’s no use in keeping me here. I just let go, and I started floating and as I started floating, I felt the water temperature change, and it got warmer, and as it got warmer, I knew I was to the top, so I stuck my head out and I kept swallowing tons of water. The waves were crashing over my face. And every time I got my head a little bit above water, I’d scream help, help. Finally, I came up to the surface. I saw there was a great big boat out there, like a river boat. They were jumping in and saving people. They were throwing life rafts out to everybody. But I couldn’t reach it. I couldn’t get there in time. But somehow I managed to get to the boat. These beautiful people, angels, I don’t know who they were. They pulled me up. And when they pulled me up to the boat, I didn’t see anybody from my family. But I believe that I survived by God and Good Samaritans.”
5. The Family Wasn’t Supposed to Be on the Duck But There Was a Mix Up
According to UK Daily Mail, a fellow passenger said the family was only on the duck because they had “gone to the wrong pick-up area.”
Tracy Beck, of Kansas City, says a ticket taker “realized the Colemans should have boarded at a different location in Branson. The Colemans had to get new tickets and (were) put on the boat that eventually sank,” Daily Mail reported.
The boat is a major tourist attraction in Branson.
The website for Ride the Ducks reads, “Ride through the scenic Ozarks on our amphibian Duck that goes right from land into the river. Climb to the top of the Mountain, discover the history behind some of America’s unique military vehicles then cruise Table Rock Lake. Quack along with the captain and the music aboard this 70-minute Ozark adventure.”
According to CNN, Ripley Entertainment, “the parent company of Ride the Ducks Branson, said it recently acquired the vessel involved in the incident.” Winds gusted up to 63 miles per hour, CNN reported.
The City of Branson offered prayers for the victims. “We are aware of an incident that happened tonight on Table Rock Lake, in Stone County. While the incident did not occur in Branson, we are hoping and praying for all involved. All questions should be directed to the Missouri Highway Patrol or the Stone County Sheriff’s Dpt.,” the city wrote on Twitter on the evening of July 19, 2018.
The governor of Missouri also offered prayers and was at the scene, leading press conferences.
Southern Stone Fire reported on Twitter in one of the earliest reports, “*Boat Dock Emergency/Branson Belle Dock* reported 20+ occupants. Full Response from multiple agencies responding. 7:12pm.” The page then clarified: “crews are on scene and assessing the incident. This incident does not involve the Branson Belle. This is the staging area only.”
President Donald Trump also tweeted condolences after the tragedy.