The death toll from Tuesday’s capsizing accident off the coast of Louisiana has increased. News from the Coast Guard brings the current status of the Seacor Power’s crew to 6 rescued, 4 dead, and 9 missing.
The two bodies, which were identified Saturday morning, were the first to be recovered from within the vessel. The other two crew members were pulled from the water—one shortly after the incident and one about 33 miles from the Seacor Power’s wreckage.
“Our deepest sympathy goes out to the family, friends and loved ones of everyone involved in this tragic incident,” said Captain Will Watson, commander of Coast Guard Sector New Orleans in the statement. “We are using every asset available to us to continue our search efforts.”
Families Remain Hopeful Remaining Seacor Crew Is Alive
The most recently found victims of the Seacor Power’s capsizing were recovered from the vessel’s port-side engine room. The lift boat remains flipped on its starboard side. Divers have struggled to reach the boat because of ongoing adverse conditions.
Crews returned to the scene at 7:50 a.m. Friday morning but divers were unable to continue operations because of dangerous weather conditions. At approximately 1:30 p.m., diving attempts were able to resume.
Later that day, the Coast Guard reported that divers recovered two “unresponsive” crew members from the Seacor Power. That term was used because Coast Guard officials don’t declare a person dead until medical examiners do so.
Families remain hopeful that the crew members who are still missing are alive and are waiting in air pockets of the partially submerged vessel. Unfortunately, there was hope that the recently recovered crew members had made it to a safe part of the ship—that hope was dashed late Friday night with the Coast Guard’s announcement.
What Are the Chances That Seacor Power Crew Members Are Still Alive?
A local news outlet spoke to marine survival experts to understand the odds that the missing crew members would be facing if they’re still alive in a pocket of the ship. Terry Crownover is a director of the Marine Survival Training Center. He made observations of survivors that were pulled from the water.
“I didn't see a lifejacket on that man,” Crownover said. “So did it happen so quickly that nobody had a chance to get a jacket?"
During slow emergencies, crew members have time to develop a plan together. When an incident happens quickly, crew members are essentially on their own and must rely on any training they’ve received to stay alive.
David Bourg, a marine architect, noted that entrances to the Seacor Power’s crew housing area are airtight. However, they aren’t watertight. So, any surviving crew members will have to contend with the risks of hypothermia if they can’t get out of the water. Reports indicated that the water temperature near the Seacor Power was 76 degrees on Friday. While warm, prolonged submersion in this temperature can still be dangerous.
Crownover mentioned that lifejackets are of extreme benefit to anyone still inside the vessel.
"If I have that on, there's a controlling factor right there that I know this jacket is going to keep me on the surface. I'm not going to sink,” Crownover said. “So now I can focus on staying warm. I can focus on trying to keep my breathing under control."
In 2013, Harrison Okene faced impossible odds when the tugboat he was on sunk. All 11 of his fellow crew members were killed when a rogue wave hit the vessel. Okene, the boat’s cook, was using the restroom at the time of the incident, a coincidence that saved his life.
At the time of the accident, the rest of his crewmates were locked in their quarters—a safety procedure used at the time because of rampant piracy in the area. They were unable to escape their locked rooms.
The wave caused the vessel to capsize and sink about 100 feet to the bottom of the ocean floor. Okene was able to make his way to the engineer’s office, where he found a small pocket of air. About 60 hours later, recovery divers were on a mission to recover the bodies of the crew—they were shocked to discover Okene alive, holding on to hope, and awaiting rescue. The cook waited in complete darkness in about 4 feet of space until he was found and rescued against all odds.
As families of the Seacor Power await news about their loved ones, this story can offer hope that seemingly impossible conditions can be overcome by offshore workers after accidents.
Our Louisiana boat accident lawyers will continue to follow this story and officials release more details.