Twelve people were still missing on April 14 after six other crew members were pulled from rough seas following the capsizing of their commercial platform vessel during a “microburst” of bad weather off the coast of Louisiana, the U.S. Coast Guard reported.
The search involved at least four Coast Guard vessels, four private ones and Coast Guard airplanes based in Corpus Christi, Texas, and Mobile, Alabama. A Coast Guard helicopter also was being used.
Lafourche Parish President Archie Chaisson III confirmed that 18 people were on board before the Seacor Power flipped over in rough seas.
“The hope is that we can bring the other 12 home alive,” Chaisson said Wednesday morning. Time is of the essence in the rescue efforts, as “we have the potential for some rough weather around lunchtime,” he added.
Relatives of the missing crew members rushed to the port from their homes nearby, seeking any information they could get, Chaisson said.
“We continue to pray for the 18 men who were on that vessel as well as their families,” Chaisson said.
The company involved, Houston-based Seacor Marine, set up a private hotline to share information with families of those onboard, Chaisson said. An employee who answered the phone said he had no immediate information he could share.
The National Weather Service in New Orleans had been warning of bad weather offshore, including a special marine warning issued before 4 p.m. on April 13 that predicted steep waves and winds greater than 50 knots (58 mph).
The Seacor Power crew sent an emergency distress signal a half-hour later, at 4:30 p.m., according to the Coast Guard, which then issued an urgent marine broadcast that prompted multiple private vessels in the area to respond, saving four of the crewmembers, the agency said. Coast Guard crews in boats rescued another two people. A search plane also joined the effort, miles south of Port Fourchon.
“There was a microburst of weather that came through the area at the time,” Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lally said.
Capt. Ronald Dufrene said his offshore trawler Mister Jug was among the shrimp boats that struggled to survive the storm. He said the captain who was on board told him seas rose 15 to 20 feet (5 to 6 meters).
“They lost the wind gage at 80 miles (129 kilometers) an hour,” Dufrene said. “They say it blew like that for more than an hour.”
“People who have been fishing 30, 40 years — the first time they put their life jackets on was yesterday. … I know three boats for sure said that,” Dufrene said.
The Seacor Power, a bulky vessel 129-feet (39-meters) long at its beam, is designed to become an offshore platform by dropping three towering legs down to the sea floor. It flipped over in the high wind and rough seas. At one point, it would be seen on video with one of its legs pointed awkwardly skyward as rescuers searched in the heaving water.
Port Fourchon, Louisiana’s southernmost seaport, is a major base for the U.S. oil and gas industry, supporting most of Louisiana’s offshore platforms and drilling rigs.
The storm also overturned other vessels and damaged property from Louisiana’s shore up to New Orleans. The Coast Guard warned in a Facebook post that the storms caused “significant hazards to life and property.”
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