Nine members of the same family are among the 17 people who died on Thursday night when a duck boat capsized in a Missouri lake – but they were never booked to be on it.
The Coleman family were from Indianapolis, but have not yet been formally named. Two other members of the family, who were also on the boat, survived.
One of the family members who survived the incident, Tia Coleman, told Fox 59 it was just her and her nephew who survived – and all of her children had died.
Tia claimed the captain told passengers on the boat: ‘don’t worry about grabbing life jackets – you won’t need them’.
‘When it was time to grab them, it was too late,’ she said. ‘A lot of people could have been spared.’
DailyMail.com has attempted to contact Ripley’s Entertainment for comment on Tia’s claims. It is legal to be on a commercial vessel without a lifejacket in Missouri.
‘My heart is very heavy,’ Tia said. ‘I lost all my children, my brother-in-law.’
Tragically, a woman who met the family before they boarded revealed they had only been on the doomed boat because they’d gone to the wrong pick-up area.
Tracy Beck, of Kansas City, says she and her family were waiting in line for another boat when the Indiana family stopped talking to have a group picture taken by the tour company.
Beck says the ticket taker realized the Colemans should have boarded at a different location in Branson.
The Colemans had to get new tickets and were put on the boat that eventually sank. Beck said she recognized the family when pictures began circulating Friday.
Family patriarch, ‘Butch’ Coleman was remembered on social media as a ‘community legend’, who spent more than 40 years volunteering in his community. The family were close to, but were not members of Zion Tabernacle Apostolic Church.
Other victims of the tragedy include a recently-baptized 15-year-old boy, a hero grandmother who died saving her granddaughter, 12, and a couple who were celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary.
Christian church deacon Steve Smith and his 15-year-old son Lance also drowned when the boat capsized on Thursday.
Smith’s daughter, Loren, survived, and his wife Pamela was not on the boat, The Christian Chronicle reported.
Family friend Will Hester asked people to pray for the family in an emotional Facebook post.
‘[Lance] 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,’ he wrote.
‘My heart breaks, but I know where [Lance and Steve] are, and I know I will see them again.’
Bill Asher and his girlfriend Rose Hamman were also identified as among the dead by friends on Facebook on Friday afternoon.
Bill and Rose had been on a week-long holiday in Branson, and had spent their last evening away on the duck boat, friend Mary Ogborn Kientzy said.
Family confirmed the death of grandmother Leslie Dennison, who had been on the boat with her 12-year-old granddaughter Alicia, via Facebook.
Her son Todd told the Kansas City Star on Thursday his daughter, who is recovering in hospital, said she could feel Leslie pushing her up as the boat filled with water.
‘She said her grandmother saved her,’ he told the paper. Leslie is being mourned as a ‘true hero’.
Another five people were killed in the tragic accident, including Robert ‘Bob’ Williams, 66, who was driving the boat when it went down in Table Rock Lake in Branson.
Williams worked for Ride the Ducks, the boat tour company which owned the vessel. Friends and family paid tribute to him on Friday as a God-fearing family man.
Williams was the first to be named, followed by Rose and Bill, with the others – who range in age from one to 70 – are yet to be identified.
William and Janice Bright, aged 65 and 64, had been in Branson celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary on Thursday, the Kansas City Star reported.
The couple have three daughters and 16 grandchildren – their 17th was on the way.
William’s sister, Karen Abbott, was devastated when she reached the car park looking for answers.
Describing her brother as her ‘best friend in the whole world’ and her sister in law as someone she’d ‘loved for 47 years’, she was torn apart to learn of their deaths – not through police, but through colleagues discussing the accident at work.
‘Needless to say, I fell apart because I couldn’t reach them on cell phones,’ she said.
Through sobs, she told the paper she wanted retribution for her loss.
‘[Ride the Ducks Branson] take people on water where no one knows how deep it is, in a vehicle that goes on land and water. They don’t make you wear life jackets! It’s ridiculous!’ she said.
‘I think this company should have their ass sued off of them and every penny they made should be returned to every victim that’s ever lost their lives in this.’
SOURCE: HANNAH MOORE and JENNIFER SMITH