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'Lord, just let me die': Indy woman recalls duck boat tragedy that killed 9 family members

Posted at 10:39 PM, Jul 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-22 06:14:39-04

INDIANAPOLIS -- An Indianapolis woman who survived a duck boat accident in Missouri that killed nine of her family members says in the moments after the boat capsized she thought she was going to die.

Tia Coleman, who lost her husband and their three children, recalled the terrifying moments in an interview with KOLR, saying everything went silent when she went underwater. She said she remembers begging to die - until she felt herself float to the surface. 

“I can'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,' That's what I felt," Coleman said.

 "Then I just let go and I started floating. I float to the top I felt the water temperature rise ...  I jumped up and I saw the big boat that sits out there. I don't know what kind of boat, it was huge, though."

WATCH cell phone video of duck boat rocked by storm.

Coleman said when she got to the surface she could see people throwing out life jackets. 

"I said, 'Jesus, keep me, just keep me so I can get to my children. Keep me, Lord.'”

But Coleman could not save her children - 9-year-old Reece, 7-year-old Evans and 1-year-old Arya - or her husband Glenn, 40.

Witnesses said Coleman's family may not have even been on that duck boat if it wasn't for a ticket mix-up. 

Tracey Beck, of Kansas City, told the Associated Press that she saw the Coleman family waiting in line for the duck boat ride. After they stopped for their photo, she said a ticket taker realized the family should have boarded at a different location and reassigned them.

The accident killed 17 people  - 16 passengers and 1 crew member, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

The Coleman family victims included four children and five adults. The others were:

  • Maxwell Coleman, 3 (Tia's nephew)
  • Angela Coleman, 45 (Tia's sister-in-law)
  • Belinda Coleman, 69 (Tia's mother-in-law)
  • Horace Coleman, 70 (Tia's father-in-law)
  • Ray Coleman, 76 (Tia's uncle)

Tia and another young boy were the only two from the Coleman family to survive. 

Tia works for the Marion County Prosecutor's office. The department released the following statement Saturday.

We are devastated by the unimaginable loss suffered by our friend and colleague Tia Coleman. The thoughts and prayers of our entire MCPO family are with Tia, her extended family and friends, and the other survivors of this tragic incident.

 READ | Indy family loses 9 people in duck boat accident

The other victims were identified as:

  • William Asher, 69
  • Rosemarie Hamann, 69
  • Janice Bright, 63
  • William Bright, 63
  • Leslie Dennison, 64
  • Lance Smith, 15
  • Steve Smith, 53
  • Bob Williams, 73, the boat's captain.

TIMELINE | Tragedy at Table Rock Lake

Investigators blamed the stormy weather for the accident Thursday evening on Table Rock Lake. Winds at the time the boat capsized were blowing as hard as 65 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service. 

Cell phone video obtained by Scripps affiliate KSHB in Kansas City shows the conditions the duck boat experienced during a storm early Thursday evening. The video shows waves rocking two duck boats. One made it back to shore. The other sank.

Governor Eric Holcomb released a statement Saturday morning offering up prayers and condolences to the Coleman family for their loss. 

“Janet and I are stunned and heartsick over this tragedy. To lose so many loved ones in an instant is horrifying, and I cannot imagine the depth of pain the Coleman’s friends and family are going through now. I ask my fellow Hoosiers to join me in offering prayers and condolences, especially for the two survivors.”