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13 Dead in Seacor Power Lift Boat Disaster – Coast Guard Suspends Search with 8 Missing

The U.S. Coast Guard has suspended its search for 8 crew members still missing after a lift boat capsized in rough weather off the coast of Port Fourchon, Louisiana, last Tuesday afternoon.

Sadly, the decision likely brings the death toll associated with last week’s maritime tragedy to 13.

Seacor Power Capsized in the Gulf of Mexico with 19 Aboard

Nineteen crew were aboard the Seacor Power, a 129-foot lift boat owned by Houston-based Seacor Marine, when it left Port Fourchon shortly before noon on April 13th. On its way to a Talos oil platform on the other side of Louisiana’s bird-foot Mississippi River delta, the vessel was caught up in a derecho-like storm just 8 miles south of its departure point. The boat capsized in the Gulf of Mexico around 4:30 p.m.

Six crew members were rescued from the sea within hours of the incident, but 13 were unaccounted for. The remains of one of the missing were pulled from the sea the following day. Another body was found on April 15, and two more were recovered by divers the next day. A fifth was discovered yesterday.

Although families of the missing had held out hope that at least some were able to survive in air pockets inside the submerged lift boat, divers who knocked on the vessel’s hull received no response.

During a news conference yesterday afternoon, Capt. Will Watson, the Coast Guard’s sector commander for New Orleans, confirmed that the search-and-rescue effort would end at sundown on Monday.

“We just came here from talking to the families. Told them what I’m telling you all now,” Capt. Watson said. “There was a lot of hugging and a lot of crying. There was a lot of sadness and grief. But there was also a lot of hope and a lot of faith, still. I just want to say to all those folks, our deepest sympathies extend to you all.”

NTSB Investigating Louisiana Lift Boat Capsizing

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has already opened an investigation into the Seacor Power capsizing.  According to Capt. Watson, the Coast Guard will “work very hard in the days ahead, in the weeks ahead, in the months ahead with the NTSB. to figure out what happened here so that hopefully we can learn some lessons that help us to prevent this from ever happening again.”

The NTSB will focus on several factors, including the weather, the people involved, the vessel, and its equipment.  The investigation could take anywhere from 12 to 24 months to complete.

Built in 2002, the Seacor Power was designed to transport workers and equipment to offshore drilling sites. The self-propelled vessel also has three legs that can be lowered to the seafloor to lift the boat out of the water and convert it to a temporary platform. But when their legs are up during transit, lift boats are top-heavy and not meant for rough seas.

John Gellert, president and CEO of Seacor Marine Holdings Inc., said on Monday that the decision to leave Port Fourchon in bad weather was “entirely the captain’s.” He characterized the captain as a “very prudent and conservative” mariner with five decades of experience.

“The weather they ultimately encountered was well beyond the forecast,” he stated. “Reports from the vessel were normal until very shortly before the incident occurred.”

Gellert also confirmed that one of the Seacor Power’s legs was protruding from the sea. That suggests the captain had attempted to stabilize the boat by lowering its legs just before it overturned.

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