(KLFY) – Louisiana is well known to be exposed to weather-related tragedy, but Louisiana residents typically have time to prepare for events such as tornadoes or hurricanes. But the Seacor Power tragedy was something no one was prepared for.
On April 13, an oil field lift boat called Seacor Power capsized off the coast of Port Fourchon after a storm system moved through the Gulf of Mexico. Of the 19 crew members who were on board, only six returned home. Six men died, seven are still missing.
Dozens of people – family members, spouses, friends and staff members of the crew – were affected by the tragedy. Many of the crew came from the Acadiana region. Community members came together in unprecedented ways to support those affected and to honor the men who died and were not found.
Lawsuits were filed over the tragic incident, bills were introduced in Congress, a nonprofit organization was founded, a family ended their generational relationship with the oil field, and the Coast Guard even came under fire and interrogation after searching for the route. Rescue operations were conducted.
News 10 Chief Meteorologist Heath Morton Explained What A Wake Low Is:
After storms, a wake forms or a rain shield moves through an area and a meso high forms behind it. The air cools down and begins to clear. About 50-60 miles west northwest of meso high a wake of warm, descending air forms. This creates a pressure gradient between the meso high and the wake, and winds can become strong in this pressure gradient. Sometimes winds can blow between 70 and 90 miles per hour, which is the equivalent of a weak hurricane. It all started inland near New Orleans and shifted offshore, causing the high winds. These events are rare and very difficult to predict. Another name is a gravitational wave.
Countless fundraisers and methods of donation have been set up to support the search and rescue operations and the families of Seacor Power victims. A non-profit organization was formed after 13 families were affected by the death / disappearance of their loved ones on board the ship.
Founded by Brooke Freeman of New Iberia, Lift Acadiana was originally founded with the intent of helping the 13 families lost in the Seacor Power incident, but the nonprofit has expanded to serve the victims of the hurricane as well Ida to help.
The website says, “Lift Acadiana is a non-profit, 501 (c) (3) charity that is organized and operated to serve the people of our Louisiana community.”
The community has certainly stepped in to offer love and support to those affected by myriad fundraisers, events, sales and donation links.
Legal proceedings / family statements
At least nine civil lawsuits have been filed in federal courts over the incident. The Associated Press reported that two of the six survivors filed lawsuits after narrowly escaping the overturned boat and then drifting in the rough, cold waters of the Gulf for 2-3 hours.
The first two lawsuits were filed on April 23 by the families of missing crew members Dylan Daspit and Jay Guevara.
Hannah Daspit, the wife of missing crew member Dylan Daspit, and Krista Vercher, the fiancée of missing crew member Jay Guevara, allege in their lawsuits that Seacor Marine and Talos Energy were to blame for costing the men their lives.
Ernest Williams, a 69 year old from Arnaudville, was a cook on Seacor Power. It was the second body found by search and rescue forces.
The Williams family lawsuit was the first to be filed in Louisiana, so the document does not contain a set dollar amount like the earlier Texas lawsuits filed by the Dylan Daspit and Jay Guevara families; However, the Williams family is also seeking $ 25 million in compensation, if not more, according to attorney Morris Bart.
The lawsuit alleged that Seacor Marine, Seacor Liftboats and Talos Energy were putting profit before the safety and life of the crew. But Semco, the manufacturer of lift boats, was also involved in the lawsuit as the person responsible.
Scott Daspit, the father of crew member Dylan Daspit, spoke to News 10 in October – six months after the tragedy – about life without his son and with no replies to his son.
Daspit said he ended his family’s generational relationship with the oil field.
The United States Coast Guard is known as America’s oldest maritime defender. Part of his mission is to help boaters in distress and save lives.
After the Seacor Power lift boat capsized in rough weather in the Gulf of Mexico on April 13, the Coast Guard conducted search and rescue operations, but abandoned the search for the missing about six days later because the men were unlikely to do so would survive that long in the water.
When the USCG first responded, one of the first lifeboats had to leave the lift boat while men were still on the boat. The Coast Guard said the cutter rescued a crew member and then returned to shore, leaving some men behind as the rescued person was seriously injured.
A commercial helicopter lowered life jackets and a radio. The coast guard was in radio contact with the men. The men said they would go back to the ship. Shortly afterwards, communication was lost.
On April 19, the Coast Guard finally stopped their rescue operations. Eight men were still missing at the time of the suspension.
Coast Guard members also reportedly tried to take eight life jackets and three hard hats, which were found by volunteers who helped locate them at the base. According to the family of missing crew member Dylan Daspit, USCG officials arrived at the search command center at Port Light Marina in Cocodrie, LA on Tuesday, April 27. The family says they refused to take the items with them.
For these reasons, the Coast Guard came under fire from community members and family members of the crew.
Senator John Kennedy (R-La.) And Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) Introduced the Vessel Response Plan Improvement Act after the Seacor Power tragedy. According to Kennedys website, the bill would require commercial vessels to notify family members of the crew in a timely manner during search and rescue operations.
All commercial ships in the oil industry are currently required to develop a detailed ship response plan that is approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. Shipowners follow these plans in the event of emergencies such as oil spills or overturned boats.
Existing regulations for ship response plans do not require ship owners to inform the families of crew members in good time about updates in the event of search and rescue operations. The Vessel Response Plan Improvement Act would ensure that crew members’ relatives were notified in a timely manner in the event of future emergencies.
Kennedy and Higgins also called for Congressional hearings on the Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) responses to the incident.
The Coast Guard held a two-week formal public hearing to review evidence related to the capsizing of Seacor Power and the loss of 13 of its 19 crew members. The hearing was held in Houma, LA, August 2-13.