'Our hearts just hurt': Nine Indiana family members among Branson duck boat victims

INDIANAPOLIS – Nine members of an Indianapolis family were among the 17 people who died when an amphibious duck boat capsized Thursday night during a severe thunderstorm in Branson, Missouri.

"They were very loved. It’s a huge family on all sides," family member Ingrid Coleman told IndyStar on Friday night from her home in Indianapolis. "It’s unimaginable. I would never have thought I would have lost this number of people this way."

Eleven members of the Coleman family – three generations – were in Branson on a vacation. Two survived the tragedy, one adult and one child.

Ingrid Coleman identified the following members of her family who were killed: Belinda Coleman, Glenn Coleman, Horace “Butch” Coleman, Irvin Raymond Coleman and Angela Coleman, who are all adults, and children Evan Coleman, Reece Coleman, Maxwell Coleman and Arya Coleman.

Both Ingrid Coleman and Kyrie Rose, whose husband is a member of the Coleman family, told IndyStar that the family typically went on vacation together once a year.

"They were definitely a very close-knit, loving family,” Rose said. “It’s really difficult to place an emotion on it. All of our hearts just hurt.”

The family members who survived were Tia Coleman and her nephew.

Tia Coleman, speaking from a hospital bed near Branson, told FOX59 that the captain on the duck boat told tourists that they didn't need to wear the life jackets.

“My husband would want me to say this. He would want the world to know that on this boat we were on, the captain had told us, 'Don’t worry about grabbing the life jackets — you won’t need them.’ So nobody grabbed them as we listened to the captain as he told us to stay seated,” Tia Coleman said during the phone interview with FOX59. “However in doing that, when it was time to grab them, it was too late, and I believe that a lot of people could have been spared.”

Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader said there were life jackets in the boat but said only that it was unclear how the safety equipment was used. He said the captain of the boat, who has 16 years of experience, survived, but the driver did not.

The names and ages of all the victims were not immediately available Friday evening.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson's office said details of the accident remained unclear as local, state and federal authorities began an investigation.

The Ride the Ducks tourist boat, a hybrid land and water vehicle, had 31 people on board on Table Rock Lake when the incident happened near the Showboat Branson Belle.

At least 17 people, including children, were killed when the boat capsized. At least seven other passengers were injured, including two in serious condition.

A line of thunderstorms blew through between 6:15 and 6:30 p.m., Sheriff Rader said, but he added it was too early to know the cause of the incident.

Rader said it was unknown whether the captain or the boat staff checked the forecast prior to going on the lake.

Suzanne Smagala with Ripley Entertainment, which owns Ride the Ducks in Branson, said the company was assisting authorities.

A full investigation was underway, with help from the Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board.

The boat sank in 40 feet of water and then rolled on its wheels into a deeper area with 80 feet of water.

Ingrid Coleman said the family still had limited information as to what happened but they were hoping to make arrangements to bring family members home as soon as possible.

"We may need assistance getting them back here," she said. "We have to bring nine bodies ... four babies home."

There are already several community fundraisers and GoFundMe pages created to help victims of the duck boat tragedy, but Ingrid Coleman said her family had not yet decided what they ultimately might need.

Contributing: USA TODAY, The Associated Press; follow Megan Henry on Twitter: @megankhenry