Muskogee Family Helped Rescue Survivors Of Duck Boat Tragedy

Monday, July 23rd 2018, 10:27 pm
By: Amy Slanchik

An Oklahoma family was among those helping rescue several people from the raging waters that sunk a duck boat near Branson.

Brandon Burley of Muskogee says he helped rescue a handful of people despite the chaos around him and his wife says she did what she could to help comfort the captain.

The Burleys were on vacation in Branson last Thursday.  They say they were on the Showboat Branson Belle when the storm rolled in.

People onboard could see the duck boat as it started to sink.

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Brandon says there was an announcement for everyone to go to the back of the boat to help people in the water.

“I bet there was 60 life vests just throwing out there, something that they could get to,” he said.

He says several people were able to grab the vests and survive.

Brandon says he worked with a group of men to rescue a woman who was clinging to the paddle wheel.

“We grabbed it and brought it down, he’d tie it off, we’d do it again, tie it off – until we brought her up to where that little catwalk runs around the back side of the water wheel,” he said.

He says he helped four people, including Tia Coleman’s nephew.  Tragically, nine other members of her family died.

Brandon’s wife LeAnn says she was in the showboat’s dining hall.

“This man just collapses on the ground.  He just falls,” she said.

She says as she worked to dry him off, he nodded his head “yes” when she asked if he was the duck boat captain.

“I prayed with him because I didn’t know what else to do,” she said.

The family says the sky changed one more time at the end of the night, when the clouds were replaced with a rainbow.

The duck boat company has offered to pay the survivors' medical expenses and for the victims’ funerals.