What should have been a relaxing family boat ride in Missouri turned into a terrifying fight for survival, which ultimately left only two of 11 family members alive.
Tia Coleman, who lost nine members of her family, recalled the moment the tourist duck boat capsized in Branson, Missouri, last Thursday.
“I’ve always loved water, I don’t know if it’s a Pisces or what, I’ve always loved water. But when that water came over the boat, I didn’t know what happened,” Tia said in a press conference, reported PEOPLE. “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 gotta get out, I gotta get out.’”
While speaking at Cox Medical Center Branson on Saturday, Tia, of Indianapolis, emotionally described the feeling of fighting to save her own life and her kids.
“And as I was swimming up, I was praying,” she explained. “I said, ‘Lord please, let me get to my babies, I gotta get to my babies, I gotta get to my babies.’”
Thursday’s accident at Table Rock Lake robbed Tia of her husband, Glenn Coleman, 40, and her three children: Reece Coleman, 9, and Evan Coleman, 7, and Arya Coleman, 1. She also lost her in-laws.
The only other family member to survive was Tia’s 13-year-old nephew, who lost his mother, Angela Coleman, 45, and brother, Maxwell Coleman, 2.
The other victims were Belinda Coleman, 69, Ervin Coleman, 76, and Horace Coleman, 70.
During the press conference on Saturday, Tia said her eldest son, Reece, who was autistic, was “the happiest, sweetest boy you’d ever met,” USA Today reported.
Tia also described Evan, her youngest son, as being “extremely smart, quick and witty,” and she said her 1-year-old daughter, Arya, had “1,000 personalities wrapped in one.”
What makes the tragedy more unsettling is lack of preparation taken by the captain when a storm created five-foot waves and unsafe water. In a phone conversation with FOX59, Tia claimed that the captain of the duck boat “had told us, ‘Don’t worry about grabbing the life jackets, you won’t need them.”
“So nobody grabbed them because we listened to the captain as he told us the safety [rules],” she added. “A lot of people could have been spared.”
During the press conference on Saturday, Tia went into further detail.
“I felt like, if I was able to get a life jacket, I could have saved my babies because they could have at least floated up to the top and somebody could have grabbed them,” Tia said.
Right now, Tia doesn’t “know yet” if she’s happy to have survived the tragedy.
“Going home, I already know is gonna 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,” Tia tearfully said during the press conference. “I don’t know how I’m gonna do it.”
“The only thing I can think of is that God must have something for me,” she added.
(Photo: Charlie Riedel/AP/Shutterstock)