When choppy waves began crashing against two duck boats in a lake in Missouri, Jennie Phillips-Hudson Carr started recording.
“We are at Branson and on the showboat! A storm came in as we got on and there was 2 ducks that you ride out there and 1 went under,” she posted Thursday night on Facebook along with video of the boats bobbing up and down.
“Not sure if everyone on it is OK.”
One of the duck boats capsized and sank in Table Rock Lake near Branson as it struggled toward land. Seventeen people died while 14 of the 31 people on board survived the ordeal
Shocked onlookers watch
Carr recorded some of the last moments of the struggling duck boat as she and other onlookers watched while on a dinner cruise on the Showboat Branson Belle.
“Oh my God, those poor people, oh no!” someone repeatedly says in the video as massive waves hit the duck boats, at times nearly burying them.
The observers expressed shock as the tragedy unfolded. “Poor guys, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh.”
“If there are kids on there, those poor babies.”
“Oh no, no, no.”
The video suddenly stops
The video ends abruptly with the boats still struggling to overcome the waves.
Officials would later say the second duck boat dangerously churned up and down through the waves but made it to shore. The first boat capsized around 7 p.m.
By early Friday, Carr had removed the video from her Facebook page.
Witnesses jumped into action
Other passengers on the Branson Belle, Trent Behr and his girlfriend, Allison Lester, described what they saw on ABC’s “Good Morning America”
Lester said the weather had been nice Thursday. But as she and Behr boarded the dinner cruise boat, “the wind really picked up bad and debris was flying everywhere,” she said.
“The waves were really rough. It was just suddenly and out of nowhere.”
As they toured the dinner boat, the couple looked out the window and saw the duck boats struggling in the water.
“It was maybe two minutes later, and we actually heard the captain say that the boat flipped or the boat is sinking,” Behr said.
“So all of the staff, all of the waiters, waitresses that may be on our showboat actually grabbed life jackets, AEDs, were running up and down the aisles helping as much as they could,” he said, referring to automated external defibrillators.
At one point, Behr said he and other passengers on the dinner boat helped pull an unconscious woman from the water. EMTs arrived before he could administer CPR, he said.
Couple backed out of trip at last minute
Tony Burkhart and his wife were about to board the Branson Belle on Thursday evening when the weather took a turn for the worst, he told CNN via Twitter.
“When I saw the weather rolling in, we decided to leave,” Burkhart said, adding that he had already purchased tickets for the duck boat trip Friday morning.
Before they went to get refunds for the dinner boat, he took a short video showing dark clouds and high winds blowing across the surface of the lake.
“We waited a few minutes in a line of people,” Burkhart said, “who were shockingly still going to purchase tickets as we were going for our refund.
“On our way walking out of the gift/ticket shop area we saw the crew of the Branson Belle scrambling to gather all the life preservers on board and tossing them to those who were in the water after the duck boat capsized,” he said.
Soon, the sound of sirens filled the air, Burkhart said. He and his wife left to get out of the way for first responders.
’My heart dropped’
Kourtney Parker, a passenger on the duck boat in front of the one that capsized, told CNN that both vessels had delayed their entry into the lake before the storm rolled in.
“We got toward the lake ramp, but our propeller quit working. So we had to wait 15 to 20 minutes for a backup bus, which set us back. And that (other) boat, because we were in front of them, and they had to wait for us,” Parker said.
After the boats entered the water, she said, they “got about halfway across the lake, and then, bam, everything all happened so fast,” she said. “We were literally under water a couple times.”