Chelsea Woman Describes Branson 'Duck' Boat Tragedy

Friday, July 20th 2018, 10:51 am
By: News On 6

Seventeen people are dead after a Branson tour boat capsized in a summer storm Thursday evening. Meteorologists say wind gusts of 50 to 65 mph were recorded around 7 p.m. when the boat capsized on Table Rock Lake.

Telena Cooper and her husband were in Branson celebrating their anniversary. The couple was boarding the showboat Branson Belle when the wind hit.

They witnessed the deadly boat incident and called News On 6 Thursday night.

"The winds were just crazy," she said. "There were two ducks still out on the water - they just bouncing up and down from the wind."

The boats tried to turn behind the showboat, and the first one made it, she said. Then they saw the second boat start to lean.

"We could see the boat tip over, and the boat disappeared," she said. 

Cooper said it was complete chaos for about 45 minutes with people trying to pull the passengers out of the water. The showboat turned off its paddle wheel because people were trying to go underneath it.

"People bobbing in 10-15 foot waves, people running to help, no one wearing life jackets, people doing CPR on people - just everything," she said.

Stone County Sheriff's Office said passengers on the Branson Belle - including an off-duty deputy - helped pull some of the victims in from the water.

7/19/2018 Related Story: At Least 13 Killed In Branson 'Duck' Boat Accident

Missouri State Highway Patrol dive team members recovered the victims.  

Missouri Governor Mike Parson said they will do everything in their power to help families through the tragedy and help first responders investigate.

The Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board are in Branson to conduct the investigation, Sheriff Doug Radar said. His office and the Highway Patrol are also involved.

The boat was part of the Ride the Ducks tour owned by Ripley Entertainment, CBS News Reports. Thirty-one people were on board when it capsized. The victims are from age 1 to 70, according to authorities.

Several passengers were also hospitalized, two in critical condition.

Sheriff Radar asked anyone who has video of the incident to send it to the Stone County Sheriff's Office so they can include it in their investigation. The boat is still under water, about 80 feet deep, he said.

The captain of the boat survived, the sheriff said.