Chelsea Couple Witnessed Duck Boat Accident

Friday, July 20th 2018, 5:04 pm
By: Amy Slanchik

Investigators say 16 passengers and the driver are dead after a duck boat capsized on a Branson Lake.

A couple from Chelsea who is vacationing in Branson watched the terrible scene unfold on Table Rock Lake. They say they felt moments of helplessness but also saw acts of heroism as people worked to rescue as many people as possible.

Telena Cooper and her husband James watched as people lined up on a dock and pulled a young boy out of the rough water.

"We've been praying since we saw that boat with the waves before it tipped over. We started praying immediately then," said Telena. "This random lady just wrapped him in a blanket. And he kept saying he couldn't find his parents."

Officials confirm the 17 victims range in age from one to 70. Fourteen of the people on the duck boat survived. Witnesses praise the bravery of an off-duty sheriff's deputy who worked to help anyone he could.

"To put yourself in that harm was unbelievable to see," said James Cooper.

The Coopers say they checked the weather before making the trip from Chelsea and were well aware of the threat. They believe the loss of 17 lives could have been prevented.

"Even if they didn't watch the news, the skies were terrible looking. They knew storms were coming. And they still chose to put people out there on the water," said Telena.

The National Transport Safety Board has arrived in Branson to begin an official investigation. The Army Corps of Engineers says the boat is 80 feet underwater and will not be recovered until Monday.