A family who was among the 17 people killed when a tourist boat sank on a Missouri lake likely would not have been on the ill-fated trip – but for a ticket mix-up.
The Indiana family made up more than half the fatalities in the capsize tragedy that happened on Thursday (local time).
Tracy Beck, from Kansas City, said she recalled the family members waiting in line.
After they stopped for a picture, she said, a ticket taker realised they should have boarded at a different location and reassigned them.
The grief-stricken community, known for its country shows and entertainment, hosted two vigils on Friday night.
About 300 people gathered in the parking lot of Ride the Ducks of Branson and others mourned at a church, singing “Amazing Grace” at both locations.
Divers found the final four bodies on Friday in Table Rock Lake near Branson after the deadliest accident of its kind in nearly two decades.
State and federal investigators were trying to determine what went sent the vessel known as a duck boat to its demise.
- Several people dead after tourist boat capsizes in Missouri
- Distressing video shows rough conditions before tourist boat sank, killing 17 passengers
An initial assessment blamed thunderstorms and winds that approached hurricane strength, but it was not clear why the amphibious vehicle even ventured out into the water.
Officials have not released names of the victims, but the sad details emerged throughout the day.
Among them were a popular duck boat driver, a father and son visiting from Arkansas, and the nine Indiana relatives – many of them children.
The risk of heavy weather was apparent hours before the boat left shore.
Suzanne Smagala with Ripley Entertainment, which owns Ride the Ducks in Branson, said the company was assisting authorities. She said this was the company’s only accident in more than 40 years of operation.
‘Very difficult day’
Twenty-nine passengers and two crew members were aboard for a pleasure cruise. Seven of the 14 survivors were hurt when the vessel went down.
At least two children and two adults were still hospitalised on Friday afternoon. The captain survived, authorities said.
Among the injured was 14-year-old Loren Smith of Osceola, Arkansas.
Her father, 53-year-old retired math teacher Steve Smith, and her 15-year-old brother, Lance, died in the accident. Loren suffered a concussion but survived.
“It’s a hard thing,” Steve Smith’s father, Carroll Smith, said of losing his only child and his only grandson.
“It’s a very difficult day.”
Video of tragedy surfaces
In a short video taken by a witness aboard another vessel, the duck boat can be seen wallowing through the choppy, wind-whipped lake, with water only inches from its windows.
Dark, rolling waves crash over its front end. The footage ends before the boat capsizes.
Later, people on Malaske’s boat saw a duck boat passenger “hanging on for dear life” to the paddle wheel of the Belle, he said.
A survivor from the family who lost nine relatives said the captain told passengers not to bother grabbing life jackets.
Tia Coleman told Indianapolis television station WXIN that she and a nephew were the only survivors among 11 relatives aboard the boat. She said she lost all her children, but she did not say how many.
Ms Coleman said the captain told passengers they would not need life jackets. By the time of the accident, “it was too late”.
An email message seeking comment from Ripley Entertainment about Ms Coleman’s comment was not immediately returned.