The Missouri governor's office confirmed to WXIN that eleven members of the family, including several children, were aboard the boat and nine of them passed away in the incident at Table Rock Lake in Branson.
The pastor of Zion Tabernacle Apostolic Church said the family was close to his church, but weren't members. A family member shared a photo that showed some of the victims.
WXIN spoke on the phone with one of the family members that survived the incident, Tia Coleman. The other surviving family member is her nephew.
“My heart is very heavy. Out of 11 of us, only two of us surviving – that’s me and my nephew,” said Tia. “I lost all of my children. I lost my husband. I lost mother-in-law and my father-in-law. I lost my uncle. I lost my sister-in-law ... and I lost my nephew.”
Coleman also said that her husband would have wanted her to speak out about what she said happened before the accident.
She told WXIN that the captain of the boat told them “don’t worry about grabbing the life jackets – you won’t need them,” so none of the family members grabbed them.
“However in doing that, when it was time to grab them, it was too late and I believe that a lot of people could have been spared,” Coleman said.
She says there’s not much that can be done.
“The only thing that I would like to be done but can’t, is to bring my family back,” Coleman said.
Investigators said stormy weather contributed to the crash. A thunderstorm brought winds of 50 to 65 mph to the area shortly before the first 911 call came in at 7:09 p.m. A severe thunderstorm warning had been issued for Branson at 6:32 p.m. Thursday.
The boat was carrying 31 people, and 14 survived. Investigators said earlier Friday that 13 people had been killed while four were still missing. By Friday afternoon, the death toll stood at 17 after the bodies of the four remaining missing passengers were found.
Passengers on a nearby boat described the scene as chaotic and said the winds picked up suddenly, sending debris flying everywhere.
The NTSB, Coast Guard and local law enforcement agencies are investigating.