NTSB Outlines Scope of Louisiana Lift Boat Disaster Investigation
The federal agency investigating the fatal capsizing of the Seacor Power lift boat off the Louisiana coast last month could issue a preliminary report by the end of May.
But final findings likely won’t be released before the end of 2022.
Seacor Tragedy Deadliest Maritime Disaster Since Deepwater Horizon
Nineteen people were aboard the vessel as it traveled from Port Fourchon, Louisiana, to a Talos Energy platform about 100 miles away on April 13th. The lift boat capsized in rough seas around 4:30 p.m., just eight miles from its departure point.
Six people were rescued from the Gulf of Mexico within hours of the accident. One body was recovered the following day, and 12 were unaccounted for. The remains of five others were found over the next several days, but seven crew are still missing and presumed dead almost three weeks after the boat overturned.
With 13 likely killed, the Seacore Power capsizing stands as the nation’s deadliest maritime accident since April 2010, when the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion killed 17 offshore workers in the Gulf of Mexico.
Seacor Power Salvage Operation Moving Forward
The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for the missing on April 29th. While volunteers with the Cajun Navy continued to comb the Gulf of Mexico by sea and air for several more days, that effort came to an end on Sunday.
The Coast Guard and the NTSB are now moving forward with a plan to salvage the Seacor Power wreckage. The Seacor Eagle, its sister vessel, will be used in the operation.
“Once that is complete, we will move to the next phase. More equipment will be brought in, and the vessel will be taken out of the water,” Petty Officer 1st Class Nicole Groll said during a media briefing held last Friday. “The vessel will be brought back to shore for the investigative piece.”
Seacor Lift Boat Investigation to Focus on People, Machinery, and Environment
The Seacor lift boat disaster has been designated a “major marine casualty,” defined by the loss of six or more lives and the potential for environmental damage.
According to the NTSB’s chief spokesperson Chris O’Neil, the investigation is being divided into three main subject groups:
- People: This includes training, licensing, and fitness for duty of the crew and any others involved in the Seacor Power’s operation. Investigators will also examine opportunities for rest, experience on the platform, what procedures were in place, and how those procedures were followed.
- Machinery: The maintenance of the lift boat, whether it was properly maintained and classed according to federal regulations, whether any modifications or repairs were in line with federal regulations, and the overall condition of the vessel.
- Environment: The weather will be a key factor in the investigation. Lift boats are top-heavy and don’t handle well in rough seas. The NTSB is particularly interested in the decision to send the Seacor Power on a 100-mile journey even though poor weather had been forecast.
It generally takes the NTSB about 30 days to release a preliminary report consisting of “a compendium of what they know up to that point and may contain new facts or evidence but won’t reach any finding as to cause nor will it have any analysis,” O’Neil said. The agency could also issue an emergency statement if the initial probe reveals anything that poses an immediate threat to life.
A full investigation usually takes around 18 months. The NTSB’s final report on the tragedy will include recommendations to prevent similar disasters in the future. However, the U.S. Coast Guard will ultimately decide whether to implement any of the recommended changes.
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