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Duck Boat Survivor Who Lost 9 Family Members Was Told Life Jackets Weren't Required

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A woman who survived that horrific Branson Duck Boat tragedy is speaking out about the accident.

Tia Coleman, who lost nine of her family members in the accident, spoke to the media at Cox Medical Center Branson and revealed that the captain of the ship had told guests they didn't need to grab life jackets.

"You don't need 'em," she recalled him saying. "So, nobody grabbed them."

The captain, Bob Williams, died in the accident. Coleman’s husband Glenn, their three children Reece, Evan and Arya, were among the other victims.

As the bad weather began to hit, Coleman assumed they would be told to grab life jackets.

"I thought that at some point [the captain] would say grab the jackets now. But we were told to stay seated, and everybody stayed seated," Coleman said. "Nobody grabbed them."

Coleman said her family chose the boat ride because of her son's autism, and believes that a life jacket would have saved his life.

“In our family, my oldest son is autistic so a lot of things normal families do, we don’t always do,” she said. “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. And I wasn’t able to do that."

"When that boat is found, all those life jackets are going to be on there because nobody pulled one off," Coleman said.

“I’ve always loved water, I don’t know if it’s a Pisces or what, I’ve always loved water," Coleman told CNN. "But when that water came over the boat, I didn’t know what happened. 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."

The distraught mother said she believes she hit her head while trying to save herself.

“The harder I was kicking to the top, I was pulled down,” she said. “I said, ‘Lord, please, I’ve got to get to my babies. I’ve got to get to my babies."

Unfortunately, Coleman was not able to save her kids. Of the 11 of her family members on board the boat at the time, only she and her nephew survived.

At one point, Coleman stopped trying to save herself, giving up hope that she could be rescued. She let herself float and soon felt warmer water and she reached the surface.

Coleman recalls surfacing from the water and feeling someone pull her from the water.

"They were beautiful people, they were angels," she said. "When they pulled me up I didn’t see any of my family."

As for her recovery, Coleman doesn't know if that is emotionally possible.

“I’ve never had to recover from something like this...I don’t know if there is a recovery,” she said during the press conference. "I would ask everybody to remember my family as the beautiful people they were.”

Coleman is holding on to her faith during this devastating time.

"God must have something for me because there's no way I should be here," she said.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Coleman in her recovery, and it has already raised $439,480.

Karen Abbott also lost two family members in the accident, though she herself was not on the boat. Abbott lost her brother and sister-in-law, William and Janice Bright. She blames the company's negligence for their deaths.

"It's ridiculous," she said. "They don’t make you wear life jackets. They say, ‘Oh, they’re available if you want to put them on,' but they don’t make you wear it."

Since 1994, 24 people have died on duck boat incidents in the United States.

[H/T: Buzzfeed News, CBS Los Angeles, Twitter]

Meagan has an intense love for Netflix, napping, and carbs. If you have a comment about one of Meagan's articles feel free to contact Tristan@shared.com