1 dead, 6 rescued, 12 still missing from capsized ship – WPRI.com
PORT FOURCHON, La. (AP) – The Coast Guard on Wednesday searched 12 people unaccounted for off the coast of Louisiana after finding a dead crew member and rescuing six survivors from rough seas when their vessel off-deck commercial form capsized in hurricane-force winds.
Coast Guard Captain Will Watson said the winds were 80 to 90 mph (130 to 145 km / h) and the sea was 7 to 9 feet (2.1 to (2.7 meters) when the Seacor Power overturned, mentioned.
The voluminous vessel with three long legs that can be lowered to the seabed to make it an offshore platform rocked on Tuesday afternoon miles south of Port Fourchon. At one point, video showed the enormous ship – 129 feet (39 meters) long at its beam – with one leg awkwardly pointed skyward as rescuers searched for the rising water.
A crew member was found dead on the surface of the water, Watson said at a press conference on Wednesday. Asked about the prospects for the missing crew, he said: “We are hopeful. We cannot do this work if you are not optimistic, if you have no hope. ”
Lafourche Parish President Archie Chaisson III said weather was critical in the rescue effort because “we have the potential for harsh weather conditions around lunchtime.”
“The hope is that we can get the other 12 home alive,” said Chaisson.
The search involved at least four Coast Guard vessels, four private and Coast Guard aircraft based in Corpus Christi, Texas, and Mobile, Alabama. A Coast Guard helicopter was also in use.
Relatives of the missing crew members rushed to the port from their neighboring homes, seeking any information they could get, Chaisson said.
“We continue to pray for the… men who were on board this ship and their families,” said Chaisson.
The ship’s owning company, Houston-based Seacor Marine, has set up a private hotline to share information with the families of those on board, Chaisson said. An employee who answered the phone Wednesday morning said he had no immediate information to share.
The New Orleans National Weather Service had advised of bad weather offshore, including a special maritime warning issued before 4 p.m. Tuesday that called for strong waves and winds above 50 knots (58 mph).
The Coast Guard received an emergency distress signal at 4:30 p.m. and issued an urgent maritime broadcast that prompted several private vessels in the area to respond, saving four crew members, the agency said. Coast Guard crews rescued two more people.
Although the Coast Guard said the lift boat capsized during a microburst, a National Weather Service meteorologist said the system looked more like an offshore derecho.
“It wasn’t a microburst – just a straight line wind event that swept over a large area,” Phil Grigsby said.
He said the closest official weather service gauge at Grand Isle showed around 30 minutes of 120 km / h winds, followed by hours of winds above 80 km / h.
The initial storm system was followed by a low pressure system called wake depression, which amplified the winds and made them last longer, Grigsby said. “It was the strongest wake I have seen in almost 18 years here,” he said.
Captain Ronald Dufrene said his offshore trawler, Mister Jug, was among the shrimp boats that struggled to survive.
“People who have been fishing for 30 or 40 years – the first time they put on their life jackets was yesterday. … I know three boats certainly said that, ”said Dufrene.
He said the captain who was on his boat told him the seas had risen 15 to 20 feet (5 to 6 meters) and the pressure gauge was lost at 129 km / h, but a member of crew told him later that he had seen it at 95 mph, “then the wind knocked over the pole.”
The 153 km / h ratio cannot be taken for granted, Grigsby said. “We don’t know how well calibrated their instrument is. But it’s not outside the realm of probability, ”he said.
Port Fourchon, Louisiana’s southernmost seaport, is a major base for the US oil and gas industry, supporting most of Louisiana’s offshore platforms and drilling rigs.
The storm also overturned other ships and damaged property from the Louisiana coast to New Orleans.
“Please join @FirstLadyOfLA and I in prayer for those still missing after yesterday’s capsize off Grand Isle and for those working to save them,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday on Twitter.
The length of the capsized vessel has been corrected; it is 129 feet wide, not 265 feet wide.
Associated Press writer Janet McConnaughey contributed to this report from New Orleans. McGill reported from New Orleans and Martin from Marietta, Georgia.