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U.S. Coast Guard, Families Hold Out Hope for Seacor Power Lift Boat Survivors

Days after the Seacor Power lift boat capsized in stormy seas off the coast of Port Fourchon, Louisiana, searchers, and families of a dozen missing maritime workers are holding out hope that at least some are still alive inside the stricken vessel.

“There is the potential they are still there, but we don’t know,” U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lally said during a news conference on Thursday. “We’re still searching for 12 people because there are 12 still missing.”

Seacor Power Lift Boat Capsized 8 Miles Off Port Fourchon

The Seacor Power, a 129-foot lift boat owned by Houston, Texas-based Seacor Marine, sent out a distress call shortly before 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 13th. The vessel was being buffeted by hurricane-force winds and high seas when it capsized in the Gulf of Mexico, eight miles south of Port Fourchon.

Nineteen crew members were aboard the lift boat and headed to the Talos oil platform on the other side of Louisiana’s bird-foot Mississippi River delta when it went down. Six people were safely rescued from the sea shortly after the accident, while one crew member’s remains were recovered on Wednesday morning.

Five were seen on the boat’s hull shortly after it overturned, including two people who jumped off and were among the six rescued on Tuesday. A third person who fell off the hull is still unaccounted for.

Thermal Imaging Showed 2 People Inside Seacor Power

Two others on the hull had been communicating with rescuers by VHF radio. Shortly after 10:00 p.m., they told the Coast Guard they were going back inside the lift boat. Thermal imaging taken that night did show two people inside the capsized vessel, but there have been no other signs of life since then.

Nevertheless, private divers assisting in the search plan to enter the submerged boat today – weather permitting. The hope is that at least some of the missing crew found air pockets inside the boat. If they did, their ability to survive would be entirely dependent on the air pockets’ size.

“The larger, the better, and it’s all about time,” Mauritius Bell, diving safety officer at the California Academy of Sciences, told the Associated Press.

“It would be somewhat analogous to breathing in and out of a paper bag,” he added. “At some point, it’s not survivable.”

Lift Boats Aren’t Designed to Handle Rough Weather

The Seacor Power ferried workers and equipment to offshore oil rigs and platforms. Built in 2002, the vessel was designed with a wide, open deck and could raise itself out of the water on stilts to perform maintenance on oil rigs.

Unfortunately, lift boats like the Seacor Power aren’t designed to handle the kind of rough weather encountered on Tuesday.

“The only option they would have had was to try to jack the boat up out of the water,” Dale Mitchell, owner of Mitchell Lift Boats in New Iberia, Louisiana, told “But if [the boat captain] had six, eight, 10-foot seas when trying to elevate the boat, the waves would have picked him up, and it would have been like dropping a table from 10 feet above the floor; it would have tore the boat up.”

Families of the missing crew remain gathered at a fire station in Port Fourchon, awaiting word on their loved ones. Many want to know why the Seacor Power headed out to sea when bad weather was forecast.

“I asked, ‘Who gave the orders’ and of course — silence,” one woman told the Associated Press. Just before the Seacor Power left Port Fourchon, she told her fiancé he should be at home. “And he knew they shouldn’t have been going out.”

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