Search continues for 9 missing from capsized boat in Gulf

Published 9:34 pm Sunday, April 18, 2021

For a sixth day, rescue crews returned Sunday to a capsized lift boat in the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana, looking for nine crew members who have not been found, the Coast Guard said.

Officials have released little information about their continuous search in the murky seas surrounding the capsized Seacor Power lift boat some 8 miles (13 kilometers) off the coast since announcing divers found two bodies inside the ship Friday night.

Six people were rescued alive after the boat capsized Tuesday in a storm. Four bodies have been found — one Wednesday, one Thursday and two on Friday.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Families of the missing crew members haven’t given up that maybe they found an air pocket or are still alive.

“We have hope,” Marion Cuyler wrote in a text to a reporter.

Cuyler texted her fiancée, crane operator Chaz Morales, that the weather appeared too bad to head out Tuesday. She said Morales texted her back that he wished he could stay ashore.

“We aren’t defeated. We will keep fighting,” Cuyler texted a reporter late Saturday.

Calm seas met rescuers for the first time since the bulky vessel flipped over Tuesday afternoon south of Port Fourchon, a major base for the U.S. oil and gas industry. It has three legs it can lower to the sea floor to lift it out of the water as a temporary platform.

Part of one of those legs poked out of the water Sunday. A corner of the boat’s platform was above the surface with the orange-painted safety railing pointing back at the sea. Two boats were nearby, a large platform boat with equipment and a smaller boat tethered to the stricken vessel.

Divers are trying to get inside the boat, capsized where the sea is 50 to 55 feet (15 to 17 meters) deep. Rescuers in the air and the water have been searching an area the size of Rhode Island for the remaining nine missing crew members.

“We are continuing to search,” Coast Guard Petty Officer John Michelli said Sunday morning. “We’ve basically been 24-7 since the beginning.”

Michelli referred questions about the diving operation to New Jersey-based Donjon Marine Co., which was contracted by boat-owner Seacor Power to lead the underwater search. A spokesperson for the company referred questions back to Houston-based Seacor on Sunday morning, and a spokesperson said Seacor didn’t have a comment Sunday.

The boat was on its way to a Talos Energy Inc. oil platform at the mouth of the Mississippi River when its was overtaken by a storm with winds 80 to 90 mph (130 to 145 kph) and waves 7 to 9 feet high (2.1 to 2.7 meters), the Coast Guard has said.

Talos Energy said in a statement it was Seacor Marine’s decision to send the boat out Tuesday.

“The Seacor Power was in port for service and inspections for several days prior to its departure, The vessel was not at a Talos facility and was fully under the command of its captain and Seacor Marine, including when to depart the port,” Talos Energy said in a statement Saturday given to the The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate.

Talos Energy said company officials were heartbroken and praying for everyone affected by the tragedy.

Seacor didn’t respond to the Talos Energy statement.

One of the bodies recovered Friday was Anthony Hartford, a 53-year-old ship cook. His wife said she got a 3 a.m. knock on the door telling her he was dead, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reported.

“It’s no feeling right now,” Janet Hartford said.

In the kitchen, six wilted red roses sat in a vase. She said her husband brought the flowers and cake to her workplace for her birthday on March 30. It was the last time she saw her husband of 24 years and the father of their four children.