A woman who lost nine family members when a duck boat capsized in Missouri’s Table Rock Lake on Thursday said the captain of the boat told passengers not to worry about life jackets before the accident.
Tia Coleman was one of the 11 members of the Coleman family to board the duck boat Thursday, according to WXIN-TV. She told the TV station that she and her nephew were the only survivors of their group.
"My heart is very heavy," Coleman told WXIN-TV. "I lost all my children, my brother-in-law."
She said that her family members didn’t bother to grab life jackets because they were told by the boat’s captain that they wouldn’t need them.
"When it was time to grab them, it was too late," she told WXIN-TV. "I believe that a lot of people could have been spared."
Authorities said 17 people were killed and 14 others injured in the incident, including Coleman's family members. The family had traveled to Branson for their annual road trip, according to The New York Times. Carolyn Coleman told the newspaper that the victims came from three generations of the Coleman family and included four young children.
The president of the company that owns Ride The Ducks Branson, Ripley Entertainment, told "CBS This Morning" that the boats have life jackets onboard but he added that passengers aren't required by law to wear them. Jim Pattison said that, given the weather conditions, the boat "shouldn't have been in the water."
"Usually the lake is very placid and it's not a long tour, they go in and kind of around an island and back," Pattison told "CBS This Morning" on Friday. "To the best of our knowledge – and we don't have a lot of information now – but it was a fast-moving storm that came out of basically nowhere."
Authorities continue to investigate the circumstances leading to Thursday’s deadly incident.