NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Search and rescue crews say they are committed to recovering the remaining eight missing crewmembers of the Seacor Power, a lift boat that capsized one week ago, on Tue., April 13, despite the Coast Guard suspending their search nearly one week later.
Six people were rescued last week. Five were confirmed dead. Eight people remain missing.
United Cajun Navy President Todd Terrell says his crews have two seaplanes in the air looking for any signs of crewmembers from the capsized vessel. He says they are searching an area south of New Iberia in the Gulf of Mexico where some debris from the lift boat has appeared in the last couple of days, some 60 miles from the original crash site.
“We found a life raft and parts of the vessel itself a few days ago and we’ve been searching that area,” Terrell says.
United Cajun Navy says the planes will remain in the air as long as they can afford to pay for the fuel, hoping to fill a gap left open after the Coast Guard ended its search Monday night.
“There’s no guarantee that anybody was in that raft, it could’ve just come off of that vessel but it was definitely a life raft from that vessel,” said Terrell.
Family members were back in Lafourche Parish hoping for any positive word.
“I trust God and all I have is faith hope and everyone’s prayers,” said Sara Walcott, the niece of one of the missing crewmembers.
Seacor Marine says it has 17 divers on the scene and United Cajun Navy says they are making progress.
“We just heard that the galley had been cleared. There are two more rooms left in the search for the divers and one of those rooms is the engine room and we are hopeful there might be survivors in there,” Terrell said.
United Cajun Navy says it is working in close coordination with the Coast Guard to investigate any potential signs of missing crewmembers.
The Coast Guard is maintaining a half-mile perimeter around the wreckage site south of Port Fourchon as divers continue to search the interior of the vessel for the remaining crewmembers.
Coast Guard Captain Will Watson says his crew has searched over 12,000 miles, an area larger than the size of Maryland and Delaware combined.
“Suspension is difficult for us,” Watson says. “There are a host of factors that you might imagine as you go into deciding something like this, but the overriding factor is can a person - or the probability that the person could - survive given the conditions they are experiencing.”
Even though the Coast Guard has suspended their search, the president of Seacor Power says a 17-person dive team will remain at the scene, combing through every square inch of the capsized lift boat.
So far, about 50% of the vessel has been covered.
The National Transportation Safety Board says they will conduct an investigation into the disaster, which could take 12-24 months to complete.
“There were warnings, but not the magnitude of which we encountered,” Seacor Marine President and CEO John Gellert says. “The investigation will further that.”
“This was a major disaster,” a spokesperson for the NTSB said in a press conference Monday. “We want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
“Our crews searched continuously over the past six days with the hope of bringing the missing crewmembers home to their loved ones. I would like to extend my deepest and most sincere condolences to the families, friends and loved ones--all those impacted by this terrible tragedy. I know that this is an immensely difficult time for you all, and for the entire maritime community,” Cpt. Watson said on Monday.
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