Updated April 14, 2021 at 10:15 p.m. ET.
The Coast Guard and multiple Good Samaritan vessels rescued six crew members Tuesday from a capsized commercial vessel 8 miles south of Port Fourchon, Louisiana, but the search continued for others and one crew member was confirmed dead.
Coast Guard watchstanders received an emergency distress signal at 4:30 p.m. CT Tuesday from a commercial lift boat, and then issued an urgent marine information broadcast (UMIB). Multiple Good Samaritan vessels responded to the UMIB.
Lift boats are self-propelled work vessels with broad open decks. They are commonly found along the Gulf Coast. They support drilling, construction and oceanic exploration, and can work in shallow or deep waters.
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Glenn Harris arrived on the scene within 30 minutes and rescued one person from the capsized vessel. An additional Coast Guard boat crew rescued another person, and Good Samaritan vessels rescued four other people from the water. One person was found dead on the surface of the water, according to Capt. Will Watson in a Coast Guard press conference Wednesday.
As of midday Wednesday, the Coast Guard and Good Samaritans were still searching for 12 missing crew members of the capsized vessel, Seacor Power. It’s operated by Seacor Marine Holdings Inc. (NYSE: SMHI), a Houston-based company that provides transportation and logistics services.
Watson said the lift boat’s crew hit “challenging [weather] conditions,” including wind gusts of 80 to 90 mph, seas of 7 to 9 feet and very low visibility.
The National Weather Service (NWS) reported thunderstorms in the area, but it may have been winds from a “wake low” that toppled the boat. Additionally, the NWS had posted special marine warnings for potentially dangerous weather.
A “wake low” is an area of surface lower pressure that develops behind a squall line of rain or thunderstorms. Strong winds from wake lows are fairly unusual and often unexpected.
While Watson did not blame the accident entirely on the weather, he acknowledged that it played a part. He added that, as of Wednesday, the Seacor Power remained overturned on its starboard side but was not drifting.
Watson said Seacor Power was on its way to Grand Pass, Louisiana, but he didn’t know why or what the crew’s mission was. These are among issues still under investigation. The Coast Guard’s focus remains on search and rescue of the missing crew members. Personnel, vessels, airplanes and helicopters from several federal and local agencies, as well as one commercial air medical service, are involved in the search.
“We’re giving it all we have,” Watson said. “You can’t do this work if you’re not optimistic.”
As of late Wednesday afternoon, Coast Guard rescue crews had spent 40 hours searching more than 1,440 square miles.
“When it comes to search and rescue, each case is dynamic and no single case is the same as the next,” Watson added. “Anytime our Coast Guard crews head out for search and rescue, it is always our hope to safely bring those people back and reunite them with their friends and families.”
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