Teen Girl Says Duck-Boat Captain Was 'Freaking Out'

And a private inspector says he warned the company about risks
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 22, 2018 9:40 AM CDT
Duck-Boat Survivor: 'The Captain Was Freaking Out'
Duck boat accident survivor Tia Coleman speaks to the media during a news conference at Cox Medical Center Branson Saturday, July 21, 2018 in Branson, Mo. Coleman lost 9 family members in the accident Thursday on Table Rock Lake which left a total of 17 people dead.   (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

A teenager on the Missouri duck boat was apparently "freaking out" when it sank because the captain was doing the same. "She's sad—very sad," Mandi Keller of Texas says about her 15-year-old daughter Gillian, per the Kansas City Star. Gillian was with her father on the boat that sank Thursday near Branson, Missouri, killing 17 people in a sudden storm; Gillian and her dad were among the 14 survivors. "Gillian said the captain was freaking out," says Keller. "She said, 'I was freaking out because he was freaking out.'" Apparently the windows were sealed and the canopy closed, trapping everyone inside until the captain realized it and released the boat canopy. "She said the thought popped in her head, 'I'm not dying today,' and the top came off, and she said, 'It was so hard to get out of the boat, Mom. It was so hard to get out of the boat.'" For more on the sinking:

  • Private inspector Steve Paul says he told the Missouri duck-boat company about design flaws in their boats that increase risks in a sinking scenario—like the boats' canopies, CBS News reports. "That canopy becomes what I'll call a people catcher, and people can't get out from under that canopy," says Paul.
  • Another risk: In rough weather, water can get into the exhaust and stop the motor, disabling its pump from getting water out of the hull. "If you watch that video, that water is definitely being slammed up into that exhaust without a doubt," says Paul. He gave the duck-boat company a report in 2017, but wouldn't share it with reporters. "I'm sure eventually it will be subpoenaed," he says.
  • "I said, 'Lord, please, I've got to get to my babies. I've got to get to my babies," Tia Coleman said through tears at a news conference in Branson on Saturday, per CNN. But Coleman—who lost three children, her husband, and five other family members in the sinking—said none were wearing life jackets because the captain deemed them unnecessary. "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." She bumped her head trying to leave the boat, possibly against the canopy, and let herself float as she gave up hope—but floated all the way to the surface. "God must have something for me because there's no way I should be here."
(More duck boat stories.)

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