BROOMFIELD, Colo. (KDVR) — Dramatic video shows terrified tourists scrambling to safety in the Bahamas as a ferry capsized in the ocean. A Colorado grandmother died during the incident, and loved ones who were on the boat with her are speaking up about the encounter.

Kayla Estep’s great-grandmother passed away, so the family reunited in her honor for a Caribbean cruise.

While on the cruise, her grandmother died. The family vacation took a devastating turn. What was supposed to be the time of their lives ended with 75-year-old Gayle Jarrett losing her life.

Estep is still shaken up as she relives the terrifying moments.

“I miss her,” Estep said. “I want to hear her voice. I just want to talk to her. I know she’s with me.”

Gayle Jarrett and her granddaughter, Kayla Estep, who's in her wedding gown with flowers
Gayle Jarrett and her granddaughter, Kayla Estep. Jarrett died after an excursion boat sank in the Bahamas. (Credit: Kayla Estep)

Boat ferrying Bahamas tourists hits rough water

Estep said her grandmother helped raise her, and now all that’s left are family photos aboard the cruise ship. On Tuesday, the ship docked in the Bahamas. The family decided to go on an excursion, but to get there, they had to board a ferry. About a half-hour into the trek, the ferry began to take on rough water.

“We hit a huge wave, and at that point, the wave came up over the entire front windows and covered about 2 inches on the deck floor,” Estep said.

Cell phone video shows the scary moments the boat started sinking. A hundred passengers were on board, seen huddled in orange life vests, some jumping for their lives into open water.

“The crew members, other than the captain, left. They got on their life vests and went up the steps crying and telling everyone that the ferry is sinking and they don’t know what to do, they’re not trained for this. I was terrified, scared and just adrenaline kicked in.”

Estep said she jumped into action and put a life vest on her two children and her grandmother, who has an oxygen tank and can’t swim. She saw the terror in her grandmother’s eyes as the water started rushing in.

“The ferry kept teetering and she kept falling into the deep end of the where the water was, on the right side, and then she got stuck between the staircase and the pole,” Estep said.

She said the captain, a good Samaritan and her dad tried to save Gayle, but it was too late.

“At this point, she was already gone, but my dad did try to do compressions,” Estep explained. “My dad watched her go.”

The family believes the amount of stress Gayle was under from fear and panic, combined with a lack of oxygen and water likely in her lungs, caused her death.

‘Out first cruise and our last cruise’

“I’m struggling,” Estep cried.

She is struggling emotionally, but also physically. Estep showed FOX31 the large purple and black bruises on her legs from trying to save her two small children and grandmother. Her family just arrived back in the U.S. on Friday, and Estep said she is sure about one thing.

“It was our first cruise and our last cruise,” Estep said with conviction.

Passengers were medically evaluated, but no other serious injuries were reported. Estep said the ferry crew members left passengers to fend for themselves, and they’re now considering legal action.

As for Gayle, her body remains in the Bahamas, and the family is awaiting autopsy results to determine an official cause of death.