Tia Coleman describes her house as “quiet, very quiet,” the sounds and laughter of her three children and her husband gone.
“It’s a house now. It’s not a home anymore,” Coleman said through tears on Tuesday afternoon, nearly a month after she survived a catastrophic duck boat accident that killed everyone in her immediate family while they were on vacation in Missouri. “I just hear silence.”
With 10 family members surrounding her, Coleman spoke to reporters in her house here Tuesday, struggling to portray her life now without her husband, Glenn, and her three children, Reece, 9, Evan, 7, and Arya, 1. They — and five other members of the extended Coleman family — were among 17 people who died on July 19, when a violent storm hit Table Rock Lake in Branson, Mo., the waves and wind overcoming the land-water craft, which capsized and sank with 31 aboard. Most of those who died were summer tourists visiting the Ozarks resort town; the boat’s driver also perished.
The Colemans, on a family vacation, lost nine. Coleman and her nephew, Donovan, 13, survived, but she says her day-to-day existence is difficult to comprehend as she attempts to cope.
She knows nothing will bring her family back. But she hopes that bringing about change can make a difference — she wants all unsafe amphibious vehicles to be banned. Her petition says that her family members died because of the “duck boat’s deadly design, which the industry knew about for more than 16 years.”
Coleman, a supervisor in the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, urged support for a bill in Washington, introduced by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), to tighten regulations on duck boats. The bill would force duck boat operators to remove the canopies and install devices that would keep the crafts afloat when they face floodwaters and high winds.
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