While fighting to save her own life, Tia Coleman — who lost nine members of her family, including her husband and three children, after a duck boat capsized in Missouri on Thursday — was focused on finding her three children.
During a press conference on Saturday at Cox Medical Center Branson, where Tia has been hospitalized since the tragedy, the survivor recounted what was going through her mind when water started filling up the boat.
“I’ve always loved water, I don’t know if it’s a Pisces or what, I’ve always loved water. But when that water came over the boat, I didn’t know what happened,” Tia recalled, according to CNN. “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, I couldn’t see, I just remember, ‘I gotta get out, I gotta get out.’ ”
After being plunged towards the bottom of Table Rock Lake, Tia struggled to reach the water’s surface.
“And as I was swimming up, I was praying,” she explained. “I said, ‘Lord please, let me get to my babies, I gotta get to my babies, I gotta get to my babies.’ ”
Thursday’s accident took the lives of nine members of Tia’s family, including her husband, Glenn Coleman, 40, and her three children: Reece Coleman, 9, and Evan Coleman, 7, and Arya Coleman, 1.
Out of the entire family on the duck boat, only Tia and her 13-year-old nephew survived. His mother, Angela Coleman, 45, and brother, Maxwell Coleman, 2, also died.
Tia’s other family members included Belinda Coleman, 69, Ervin Coleman, 76, and Horace Coleman, 70.
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During the press conference on Saturday, Tia spoke briefly about her late children.
She described her eldest son Reece, who was autistic, as being “the happiest, sweetest boy you’d ever met,” USA Today reported.
Tia also described Evan, her youngest son, as being “extremely smart, quick and witty,” adding that her 1-year-old daughter Arya had “1,000 personalities wrapped in one.”
“So nobody grabbed them because we listened to the captain as he told us the safety [rules],” she continued, adding that she believed “a lot of people could have been spared” if they had been properly prepared.
During the press conference on Saturday, Coleman doubled down on her claim.
“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,” Tia remarked, according to CNN.
“Going home, I already know is gonna be completely, completely difficult. I don’t know how I’m going to do it. Since I’ve had a home, it’s always been filled with little feet and laughter. And my husband,” Tia tearfully said during the press conference. “I don’t know how I’m gonna do it.”
USA Today reported that Tia doesn’t “know yet” whether she’s happy to have survived the accident that took the lives of many of her family members. “There’s no way I should be here,” she said, according to the outlet.
“The only thing I can think of is that God must have something for me,” she added.