Leslie Dennison, one of the confirmed victims of the Branson duck boat tragedy, is being hailed a hero after pushing her granddaughter to safety while the “Ride the Ducks” amphibious boat sank beneath them.
Dennison’s family confirmed her death on Facebook Friday afternoon, stating that she had been on the boat with her 12-year-old granddaughter Alicia.
Her son Todd told the Kansas City Star on Thursday that his daughter, who is recovering in hospital, said she could feel Leslie pushing her up as the boat filled with water and sank beneath them.
Here’s what you need to know about Leslie Dennison:
1. Leslie’s Son Todd Said She Was in Town for Less Than an Hour Before Heading to the Docks With His Daughter
Dennison’s son Todd choked back tears while talking to the Kansas City Star Friday morning. He was making his way into Branson City Hall to see if there was any news on his missing mother, who was on the duck boat that sank Thursday night, killing 17 people on board.
Todd told the publication that his mother Leslie had taken his 12-year-old daughter Alicia on the duck boat after coming to town for a visit. They were gone for less than an hour before tragedy struck.
“He said his mother barely had enough time to drop off their luggage at their hotel, before they went to board the boat,” the Kansas City Star reports.
On the verge of tears, Todd excused himself to continue searching for information about his mother. “I have to go,” he said.
His daughter is now recovering in the hospital and his mother was confirmed as one of the 17 victims.
2. Todd’s Daughter Said She Could Feel Leslie Pushing Her Up Toward Safety While the Boat Sank Beneath Them
Later Thursday night, in the hospital, Dennison said that his daughter told him how the boat sank. While the boat was submerging, she could feel her grandmother pushing her upward, toward safety.
“She said her grandmother saved her,” Dennison said.
Todd posted a picture of his mother on his Facebook wall, with the caption: “Love you so much mom !!” Friends and loved ones flooded his post with condolences, sending thoughts and prayers to Todd and his family, and hailing Leslie as a true hero.
“Todd, I can’t imagine what you all are going through. Your mother passed a true hero. Lots of prayers and love!” one user posted on Todd’s picture of his mother.
Another wrote: “There is no greater love than to lay down your life for others. I’m so sorry Todd!!! Much love and prayers!!”
3. Leslie Enjoyed Country Music, Facebook Slot Games & Used to Work As a Supervisor at Augustana College
According to Dennison’s Facebook profile, the hero grandmother was a former supervisor at Augustana College. She lived in Sherrard, Illinois and was visiting her son in Missouri when her life was cut short. Her profile states that she was from Davenport, Iowa.
She enjoyed playing slot games, which fill her timeline. Her cover photo shows a photo of her family, with a line of children sitting happily on a big, comfortable couch. She loved country music, and followed several country bands on her profile: Tim McGraw, Brooks & Dunn and Trisha Yearwood among them.
Another one of her children, Brian Dennison, posted an emotional tribute on his Facebook profile, calling his mother a hero.
4. The Branson Duck Boat Capsized After a Storm Blew Across Table Rock Lake in Missouri
A popular tourist amphibious duck boat capsized Thursday evening with more than 30 people, including children, on board in a lake near Branson, Missouri. 17 fatalities have been confirmed, and all passengers are now accounted for. Divers worked late into the night looking for missing people in the dark, jet-black water, and found the rest of the victims Friday afternoon.
Rescuers called off the search around midnight Thursday, with five people still missing. The dead range in age from 1 to 70, according to Stone County sheriff Doug Rader. Of those rushed in the hospital, at least three are under the age of 18.
Rader said in a news conference that the victims perished from drowning. Seven 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.
Jim Pattison Jr., the president of Ripley Entertainment, told “CBS This Morning” on Friday the boat “shouldn’t have been in the water.”
“I don’t have all the details, but to answer your question, no, it shouldn’t have been in the water if, if what happened, happened,” he said when asked why the tour continued in such rough conditions.
According to Pattison, the boats did have life jackets on board but passengers are not required to wear them by law. He said that the lake is normally very calm, and the company had ducks out all day before the storm hit, according to CBS News.
5. The Tragedy Took 17 Lives, Including the Life of Nearly An Entire Family
Other victims of the duck boat accident included the loss of almost an entire family. The Coleman’s boarded the amphibious boat as a family and only two members made it out alive, Tia Coleman and one of her nephews. She lost her her husband, all of her children, her in-laws, uncle and sister-in-law.
The Indianapolis Star reported that the adult members of the Coleman Family who died were Glenn Coleman, Horace “Butch” Coleman, Belinda Coleman, Ray Coleman and Angela Coleman.
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.”
William and Janice Bright, aged 65 and 64, had also been in Branson celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary on Thursday, the Kansas City Star reported. Bright’s sister, who described William as her “best friend in the whole world,” was devastated by the news and demanded retribution for their deaths.
“[Ride the Ducks Branson] take people on water where no one knows how deep it is, in a vehicle that goes on land and water. They don’t make you wear life jackets! It’s ridiculous!” she said through tears.
Other victims include Bill Asher and Rose Hamman, who were on their last night of vacation when they boarded the boat, and the driver of the boat, Robert Williams.