Nine members of one family were killed on Thursday after a duck boat capsized in Missouri, and officials say victims range in age from 1 to 70
Nine members of one family were killed on Thursday after a duck boat capsized on Missouri’s Table Rock Lake — and officials say the victims range in age from 1 to 70, PEOPLE confirms.
Seventeen people died and several were injured after the Ride the Ducks boat capsized in the Ozarks as a thunderstorm ravaged the water at the popular tourist destination.
Nine members of one family are among the dead, and two members of the family survived, a spokesperson for Gov. Mike Parson’s office tells PEOPLE. The victims’ names have yet to be released by officials.
The youngest victim was 1 year old and the oldest is 70, a spokeswoman for the Stone County Sheriff’s Office tells PEOPLE. Thirty-one people were on the vessel at the time of the incident.
Trent Behr, who saw the accident from a nearby boat, says there was chaos the moment witnesses realized what had happened.
“Our captain yelled, ‘The boat tipped over! The boat’s in the water.’ Then all of a sudden, the staff on our boat just dropped what they were doing and grabbed life vests,” Behr, 20, recalls. “They went to try to save as many people as they could find.
Behr and his girlfriend, 20-year-old Allison Lester, had just arrived in Springfield, Missouri, from Sioux City, Iowa, on Wednesday and boarded for the Branson boat trip around 7 p.m.
They hadn’t left the dock when the nearby boat capsized. Behr says he and Lester jumped into action, looking to help anywhere they could.
“We decided, ‘We just can’t sit here. We need to do something,’ ” Behr says. “We saw a green purse float by the front of the boat. Then we see a lady who was in the water with her face down, unconscious. She floated by. That’s when I made the decision, ‘I need to help.’ “
Behr, Lester and two others pulled the woman, who looked to be in her late 30s, from the water. They pulled her onto the boat and Behr says the woman looked to be seven months pregnant.
Behr prepared to perform CPR on the woman, but an EMT official swooped in and took over, ordering Behr and the group away.
“It was surreal and we were at a loss for words,” Lester tells PEOPLE of the moments after they left the scene. “We were sick to our stomachs at what we had witnessed. My feelings were all over the place. These are people on vacation, just like we are.”
Lester says they do not know whether the woman they saved survived the incident.
“We’re blessed that we were able to help the lady out of the water. Just knowing we gave our best shot … we tried and we did care,” Lester says.
Authorities said they believe the boat turned over and sunk due to the stormy weather at about 8 p.m. ET with the thunderstorm winds as high as 60 mph, according to NBC News. The duck boat remains at the bottom of the lake.
In a statement, the boating company said: “We are deeply saddened by the tragic accident that occurred at Ride The Ducks Branson. This incident has deeply affected all of us. Words cannot convey how profoundly our hearts are breaking. We will continue to do all we can to assist the families who were involved.”