The Coast Guard announced Monday it was ending the search for eight crew members of a commercial lifting boat who have been missing for six days in the freezing waters off Louisiana after the boat capsized during ‘a storm in the Gulf of Mexico. The probable death toll now stands at 13.
The bodies of five crew members were found, said Captain Will Watson, Coast Guard Area Commander for New Orleans, at a press conference where he announced that the search effort and rescue would end at sunset Monday.
“Unfortunately, five were found dead and eight people are still missing,” he said.
“We just came here after talking to the families,” he said. “I told them what I’m telling all of you now. There was a lot of hugging and a lot of crying. There was a lot of sadness and sorrow. But there was also a lot of hope and a lot of faith, still. I just want to tell all of these people that our deepest condolences go out to all of you.
“The focus will now shift” to a National Transportation Safety Board investigation, Captain Watson said.
The Coast Guard, he said, “would work very hard in the days to come, in the weeks to come, in the months to come with the NTSB to figure out what happened here so that we can hopefully it, learn lessons that will help us prevent this from happening. that will never happen again.
Six people were rescued a few hours after the craft capsized, and one person was found dead on the surface of the water the next day, the Coast Guard said. Another body was removed from the water on April 15 and two more were recovered by divers the next day. Captain Watson announced the recovery of a fifth body at Monday’s press conference.
The Coast Guard had searched for the missing for more than 175 hours and sent a scuba diving team to the boat’s hull in hopes of finding survivors trapped inside. But divers who hit the hull heard no response, the Coast Guard said Thursday evening.
The Coast Guard searched more than 9,268 square nautical miles – an effort that Captain Watson said included four Coast Guard cutters, three 45-foot response boats, six fixed-wing aircraft and three helicopters.
The vessel was on its starboard side after turning. When the Coast Guard arrived, rescuers faced waves of seven to nine feet and winds of 80 to 90 miles per hour. Images and video footage released by the Coast Guard showed waves pounding the side of the partially submerged ship.
The Coast Guard said the scene was a “major marine accident” and said it was investigating with assistance from the NTSB.
The 129-foot commercial lift boat capsized about eight miles off Port Fourchon, Louisiana, according to the Coast Guard. A spokesperson for Seacor Marine, a Houston-based shipping company, identified the vessel as the Seacor Power.
The Coast Guard received a distress message at approximately 4:30 p.m. on the day the vessel capsized.
Seacor did not say what the boat’s mission was that day. In a statement, the company thanked the Coast Guard and the “Good Samaritan Ships” that responded.
“We are deeply saddened by the news of the capsizing of the vessel and are working closely with the United States Coast Guard and local authorities to support all efforts to locate our valued members and partners,” the company said in a statement. “Our hearts and prayers go out to everyone involved.”
Darra Morales told NOLA.com that her son, Chaz Morales, 37, a crane operator on the boat and a father of three, needed to take time off but decided to work an extra shift on the boat to earn money. ‘silver.
News of the capsizing passed through Port Fourchon, a major base of operations for offshore oil and gas companies that plays a role in supplying the country with about 18% of its total oil supply, according to the Grand Port Commission. The fork.
More than 400 large supply ships pass through the harbor canals every day and around 15,000 people per month are airlifted to offshore oil and gas sites off Port Fourchon, the commission said.
“It’s a dark feeling that we are feeling throughout the community right now,” said Rodney J. Gisclair Sr., vice-chairman of the Grand Lafourche Port Commission.
“We are a marine community, and tragedies like this take the community to heart,” he said. “We all feel a sense of loss. I don’t mean to say it’s inevitable, but it’s part of our life here on earth.
Lift boats are self-propelled work boats with wide open decks and are typically found along the Gulf Coast. They support drilling, construction and ocean exploration and can work in shallow or deep environments.
Harris Cheramie Jr., chairman of the Grand Lafourche Port Commission, said the families of those aboard the Seacor Power came not only from Port Fourchon, but from across the state.
The job is dangerous, said Cheramie, who was a sailor for over 30 years, but “it’s just part of life.”
“You hate to say it, but down here we are all raised with it, and you hope for the best that it doesn’t happen, and you thank the Lord every day when you come home,” Mr. Cheramie said.
He said the Seacor Power was most likely surprised by the strong winds that knocked her down. The storm, he said, had surprised other boaters, including a shrimp boat.
“It was an abnormal storm,” said Mr. Gisclair.
Severe weather had hit Louisiana, bringing wind gusts of over 60 miles per hour and an average of three to five inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service, which issued a flash flood alert for much of the Louisiana coast.
Michael Levenson and Heather Murphy contributed reporting.