The 17 victims who tragically died onboard a duck boat that capsized in at Table Rock Lake, Missouri, on Thursday have been identified.
The Coleman family made up nine victims, including three other children: Maxwell Coleman, 2; Reece Coleman, 9; and Evan Coleman, 7, in a list provided by authorities to local media.
Only two members of the Coleman family survived, Tia Coleman and her 13-year-old nephew, according to KOLR.
Tragically, the family was never meant to be on the doomed vessel with Tia telling the outlet they missed their boat after going to the wrong duck boat business. When they made it to Ride the Ducks, the group was allowed to switch their tickets for the 6:30 ride.
Tia recounted the terrifying experience of trying to escape the sinking boat, saying she “couldn’t see anybody, I couldn’t hear anything.”
“I couldn’t hear screams, it felt like I was out there on my own,” she said. “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.’ And then I just let go.”
Tia’s other family members included sister-in-law Angela Coleman, 45, Belinda Coleman, 69, Ervin Coleman, 76, Glenn Coleman, 40, and Horace Coleman, 70.
She lost her husband and their three children, aged 9, 7 and 1, in the incident as well as her parents-in-law. Angela was there with her 13-year-old son, who survived, and 2-year-old son, Maxwell.
“The last thing I heard my sister-in-law say was ‘grab the baby,’” Tia recalled before the boat began sinking. “My head pushed up to the top of the water and I lost control, I didn’t have anybody with me.”
“I couldn’t see anybody. And I know it wasn’t but I felt like I struggled for at least an hour, but it was probably like 10 minutes. And I just remembered I kept sinking and sinking,” she said.
Among the others who died were Janice Bright, 63, and William Bright, 65, who were from Higginsville, Missouri, and celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary.
William’s sister, Karen Abbott, told The Kansas City Star she only found out about the duck boat capsizing when she overheard her boss talking about it.
“Needless to say, I fell apart because I couldn’t reach them on cell phones,” Abbott said. The Brights have three daughters, 16 grandchildren and were expecting their 17th grandchild.
Abbott told the newspaper her brother was her “best friend in the whole world.”
“It was just he and I,” she said. “Most people say they don’t like their sister-in-laws. I’ve loved Janice for 47 years. She was my friend before she was my sister.”
William Asher, 69, of St. Louis, Missouri, and his girlfriend Rosemarie Hamann, 68, were inseparable before death.
A neighbor of the couple told KMOV the two loved to dance, travel and “listen to the oldies” together.
“It’s devastating, Will was such an integral part of the community here,” former neighbor Jim Roepke, told the station. “He knew everybody there wasn’t a person that drove by that he didn’t wave to, talked to. He was just wonderful. He was always happy, always has a smile, always willing to help out. That’s by far the fondest memory and will always stick with me.”
Father and son, Steve Smith, 53, and Lance Smith, 15, of Osceola, Arkansas, also passed away in the tragedy.
A family friend of theirs, Will Hester, shared a heart-wrenching tribute to them on Facebook asking for prayers.
“Please pray for the Smith Family of Osceola church of Christ. Last night Steve (father and husband) and Lance (the son) died in the tragic duck accident in Branson, Missouri,” Hester wrote.
“Steve was a deacon at Osceola and I had just baptized Lance, who was 15, late last year. This past Sunday I finally was able to get Lance to do a devotional and break out his shell!” Hester continued. “Attached is one of the last photos of him I know exists. He was like a son to me and I will miss him greatly.”
“He was the perfect example of humility and compassion! He cared about everyone. My heart breaks, but I know where they are and I know that I will see them again,” he added. “Again, we ask for prayers of comfort for everyone! I cannot express how much I am thankful for all who contacted us and told us they were praying! Thank you for your support!!!”
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Leslie Dennison, 65, was also pronounced dead. Her son Todd Dennison told The Kansas City Star that his mother saved his 12-year-old daughter Alicia when the boat sank.
“She said her grandmother saved her,” Todd told the newspaper of how his daughter felt Leslie pushing her upward from below the water.
The driver of the duck boat, Robert “Bob” Williams also died, with his widow, Judy, telling CNN he was a friendly man.
“He’d talk to anybody. He made an effect on many lives. He would give up his life for somebody,” she said. “That’s the kind of man Robert was, is.”
His grandson, Victor Richardson, told the outlet Williams was “a God-fearing man; he was very humble. He was the calmest spirit you could ever meet.”
Authorities said they believe the boat turned over and sunk due to the stormy weather at about 8 p.m. ET with the thunderstorm winds as high as 60 mph, according to NBC News. The duck boat remains at the bottom of the lake.
In a statement, the boating company said: “We are deeply saddened by the tragic accident that occurred at Ride The Ducks Branson. This incident has deeply affected all of us. Words cannot convey how profoundly our hearts are breaking. We will continue to do all we can to assist the families who were involved.”