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Indianapolis survivor of fatal duck boat ride recalls family before tragedy

BRANSON, Mo. (WISH) – Tia Coleman shared how she survived and how she plans to continue on without her family.

They were on a duck boat tour in Branson Missouri, when severe weather hit, causing the boat to sink.

In all, 17 people were killed. Nine of them are Coleman’s family members.

Coleman spoke from a wheelchair at Cox Medical Center in Branson, Missouri, Saturday afternoon. Tia’s strength was seemingly nothing short of a miracle after losing her entire immediate family. 

Her husband, Glenn, 40; her sons, 9-year-old Reese and 7-year-old Evan, and her 1-year-old daughter Arya all died after the duck boat capsized Thursday night.

Coleman said she knows the only thing to do now is move forward.

“I’ve never had to recover from something like this,” sobbed Coleman. “I don’t know if there is a recovery from it.” 

During the press conference, Coleman painfully remembered in chilling detail the ill-fated boat ride.

“As I was swimming, I was praying. I said, ‘Lord, please let me get to my babies. I gotta get to my babies,’” said Coleman. “I was kicking and the harder I fought to get up to the top, I was getting pulled down. I kept fighting. I said ‘Lord, if I can’t make it, there’s no use in keeping me here.’” 

It was a boat tour meant to create lasting memories. Instead, a picture on a green background, the family smiling outside the Duck Rides Boat Tour entry, just moments before getting on board, is the last memory Coleman has of her family.

Sobbing, Coleman described sinking under water and the moment someone saved her life.

“Somehow I managed to get to the boat,” said Coleman. “These beautiful people, angels, I don’t know who they were, they pulled me up. And when they pulled me up from the boat, I didn’t see any of my family.”

Until that point, the family vacation had been full of smiles, laughs and family meals. Their final one together was at Golden Corral.

“The kids were like, ‘Can I have this?’ I said, ‘We are on vacation; on vacation you can have whatever you want.’ So I start piling up their plates,” said Coleman. 

Soon this vacation-turned-nightmare will end, and Tia will come back home. 

“I don’t know how I’m going to do it,” Coleman cried. “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.”

After 30 minutes, Tia, a pillar of strength, finally crumbled with emotion. 

“I miss them, I miss them,” Coleman screamed as she was wheeled away from the conference. 

Coleman credits God and her faith for saving her. 

When asked if she had a message for the captain who survived, Coleman firmly said “no” and said she will never go on any type of boat “ever again.”