BRANSON, Mo. — The 17 victims in the duck boat tragedy three days earlier on Table Rock Lake were remembered Sunday by the Branson community during a service at Williams Memorial Chapel on the College of the Ozarks campus.
Inside the chapel, families of some of the victims were surrounded with prayer and song as the community tried to offer its support.
“We started putting faces with names," Branson Mayor Karen Best said. "Those that were once strangers to us quickly became family. Today, we say, 'We’re so sorry; we’re so sorry that your hearts are broken.'”
The church's bell rang 17 times for the 17 victims.
Dawn and Jim Perry, who live in Branson, felt compelled to be a part of the memorial service.
“Our hearts are just intertwined with these people, even though we don’t know them personally,” Dawn said.
The Perrys felt especially heartbroken for Tia Coleman, the vacationer from Indianapolis who survived the tragedy but lost nine of her relatives — including her husband, Glenn, and their three children.
“I have three children myself and so I can really relate and to my husband and imagine losing it all in just a moments’ time,” Dawn said.
The mostly volunteer Branson Fire Department helped save the survivors and acting Branson Fire Chief Ted Martin knew the driver of the boat, Robert "Bob" Williams.
“That duck driver was very engaged in this community as well he served as an ambassador for the Chamber of Commerce, which is a volunteer position I served with him in that role,” Martin said.
While the grieving process is only beginning for these families, the Branson community vowed not to forget the 17 lives lost.
“You will always remain in our hearts," Best said. "We love you and God bless."
The service also honored the 14 survivors, who are dealing with a wide range of emotions in the aftermath of the duck-boat accident.