Coast Guard Ends Seacor Power Search After Fifth Victim is Found
The U.S. Coast Guard confirmed that it will end the search for the missing crew of the capsized liftboat Seacor Power at sunset today a week after the vessel was lost in heavy weather off the Louisiana coast. Announced at a mid-day briefing, the Coast Guard also confirmed earlier reports that a fifth victim had been located and identified while divers continue to search the vessel for the eight crewmembers that remain unaccounted for after an extensive search of the area.
“Suspending a search is one of the toughest decisions the Coast Guard has to make,” said Captain Will Watson, commander of Coast Guard Sector New Orleans. “Our crews searched continuously over the past six days with the hope of bringing the missing crewmembers home to their loved ones. I would like to extend my deepest and most sincere condolences to the families, friends, and loved ones – all those impacted by this terrible tragedy.”
While the Coast Guard is ending its search, the recovery efforts are ongoing at the vessel, which remains partially submerged approximately eight miles from Port Fourchon, Louisiana. John Gellert, president and CEO of Seacor Marine, owners and operators of the vessel, reported that 17 divers have been working at the sight having completed a search of approximately half of the ship. They are expected to continue their efforts depending on weather conditions, which improved in the Gulf of Mexico.
The divers located and removed the fifth body from the second deck of the vessel over the weekend. It was the third victim to be found inside the vessel while the Coast Guard last week also recovered two bodies from the Gulf of Mexico. The Lafourche Parish Coroner's Office, identified the fifth person, Lawrence Warren, age 36, as the youngest victim of the accident.
In the next phase of the operation, the National Transportation Safety Board, which has is at the scene to undertake the investigation, reported that Seacor working with the Coast Guard will develop a plan for the salvage of the Seacor Power. The Coast Guard will be responsible for approving the plan and once the vessel is brought back to shore it will be thoroughly searched and investigators will look for clues to determine the cause of the accident.
The NTSB said that the investigation is expected to last between 12 and 24 months. During that time, they will look at the weather conditions at the time of the accident as well as the crew of the vessel, and the vessel’s equipment.
Responding to questions at the briefing, Gellert of Seacor said the captain was very experienced and “a conservative mariner,” and it was his decision when to sail. An early look at the vessel appears to show that a leg was partially lowered suggesting that the captain might have been trying to put the legs down to the seafloor in an effort to stabilize the vessel during the storm. He noted, however, that this was from a preliminary look at the vessel and that one of the survivors was a member of the bridge team and would be able to provide investigators with additional details.
The Coast Guard estimated that its boat and air crews aided by local authorities and private boaters had covered over 9,200 nautical miles during their search. The cumulative search totaled 175 hours involving four cutters, multiple 45-foot rescue boats, Dolphin and Jayhawk helicopters, and Ocean Sentry and Hercules airplanes, as well as the resources of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Port Fourchon Harbor Patrol, Port Fourchon Sheriff's Department, and Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office.