'Grab the baby!' - Mother describes scenes during Missouri duck boat tragedy

Tia Coleman says her family only joined the boat because of a ticketing mix-up

'Grab the baby!' - Mother describes scenes during Missouri duck boat tragedy

Tia Coleman, a survivor of the Ride the Ducks incident on Table Rock Lake on Thursday speaks at a press conference at Cox Medical Centre in Branson | Image: USA TODAY Network/SIPA USA/PA Images

A grieving mother whose nine relatives died in the Missouri duck boat disaster heard her sister-in-law shout "grab the baby!" before a huge wave struck the vessel.

Tia Coleman has also revealed how the family only ended up joining the 6.30pm tour on Thursday because of a ticketing mix-up.

She told the Missouri-based TV network KOLR that she and her 10 relatives first went to the wrong duck boat business but then switched their tickets.

Mrs Coleman's three children - Reece (9), Evan (7) and Arya (1) - died in the accident on Table Rock Lake in the country music tourist town of Branson.

The mother and her 13-year-old nephew were the two members of the Indiania-based family who survived.

She told KOLR: "A really huge wave swept over and when that wave swept over, the last thing I heard my sister-in-law yell was 'grab the baby'."

Describing the moments she struggled in the water, she added: "I said Jesus please, keep me, just keep me so I can get back to my children, keep me Lord.

"And I was swimming, I was swimming as fast as I could, (but) I could not reach the life jackets."

Duck boat survivor Tia Coleman is comforted by family after answering questions about her escape from the sinking boat and the loss of nine family members on Table Rock Lake, in Branson, Missouri | Image: TNS/SIPA USA/PA Images

Mrs Coleman then described how she swam to a rescue boat on the lake.

Stone County sheriff's department has identified the six other deceased members of her family as Angela (45) Belinda (69) Ervin (76) Glenn (40) Horace (70) and Maxwell, (2).

One of the men was Mrs Coleman's husband.

The widow has since claimed that the captain of the boat told passengers they would not need life jackets.

The disaster left 17 of the boat's 31 passengers dead. Five of those who died were children.

Janice Bright (63) and William Bright (65) had recently celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary before they were killed in the disaster.

Bob Williams (73) who was operating the boat, was also among those who died.

The cause of the tragedy is yet to be confirmed, but an initial assessment has blamed a thunderstorm and winds that approached hurricane strength.

The National Weather Service had issued a severe thunderstorm watch for the area on Thursday, saying conditions were ripe for 70mph winds.

They followed up with a severe thunderstorm warning for three counties that included Branson and Table Rock Lake.

It is not clear why the vessel, which went down roughly 40 minutes after the alert, ventured out onto the water in those conditions.

The National Transportation Safety Board has said it might take as long as a year to finish a report on what caused the amphibious vehicle to capsize.

The NTSB has reportedly said it will be on the scene for the next seven to 10 days.