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Seacor Power survivor recalls terrifying lift boat disaster in new federal lawsuit

“The last thing the Plaintiff wanted to do was jump into the water.”
Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 10:34 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - One of the Seacor Power lift boat disaster survivors said the last thing he wanted to do was jump into the water when the boat capsized. Those details were revealed in the latest federal lawsuit filed against the owner of the vessel.

Dwayne Lewis-- a survivor of the lift boat-- said he was convinced he was going to die.

For Lewis, it was just another day reporting to work aboard the Seacor Power. His assignment was to supervise operations on a fixed platform near the mouth of the Mississippi River and the Seacor Power would bring him there.

A rescue basket marked Seacor Power has been found on the beach in Cameron Parish. The basket...
A rescue basket marked Seacor Power has been found on the beach in Cameron Parish. The basket is now in the possession of the Cameron Sheriff's Office and will be handed over to the Coast Guard.(KPLC Viewer)

Despite warnings of impending severe weather conditions in the Gulf of Mexico, the Seacor Power left anyway.

In the federal lawsuit filed by Lewis-- he said he was napping in his stateroom when three hours later, he felt the lift boat roll over and he jumped out of bed. He describes how the ceiling became a wall, a wall became the floor and the floor became a wall.

+ View the full lawsuit here

“It was a horrific experience. He had multiple opportunities to die and you know he was trapped in what he believed was a tomb because he couldn’t get out,” said Lewis’ attorney Frank Lamothe.

Lamothe says there was a window in the room. A coworker was able to get to Lewis’s room, and together the two used a fire extinguisher to break the window to escape.

They both put on life vests, and according to the lawsuit, the coworker told Lewis, “We need to get out now,” and he exited through the window.

Coast Guard Seacor Fuel Removal
Coast Guard Seacor Fuel Removal(Source: WVUE)

Water was pushing through and Lewis did not want to jump. The lawsuit details an event from his childhood where his younger brother drowned, and his parents, therefore, kept him away from water. Lewis did not know how to swim.

“This was something Plaintiff never wanted to do, never even dreamed of doing, but, ‘Here I am in this water,’” according to the lawsuit.

“He had a life jacket on which, thank goodness you know, it was going to keep him buoyant, but even with that you know the seas would push him under and they were violent and it would have been easy for him to actually even drown with the life jacket on,” said Lamothe. “There was no guarantee of his survival even though he was out of the vessel before it became submerged.”

The lawsuit claims multiple safety measures were not taken before leaving Port Fourchon:

  • The locations of emergency exits were not discussed.
  • Location of life jackets in case of an emergency was only briefly discussed and only as “outside in boxes at a mid-ship location.”
  • Instructions and demonstration for life jacket use was not provided and:
  • No other information on lifesaving equipment was provided.
  • Lewis was adrift in the Gulf of Mexico many miles offshore for hours.
The Seacor Power capsized on Tuesday, April 13.
The Seacor Power capsized on Tuesday, April 13.(Captain Josh Howard)

“He was in the seas for three or four hours going under many times, and each time he went under he thought he would never come up again,” said Lamothe. “He was praying to his mother that he didn’t want to join her yet. He-his mother is obviously pre-deceased and he was very close to her and just said ‘Mom, I’m not ready to join you yet.’ And you know, he’s here today but that experience you know, he lives with it every minute.”

The lawsuit says eventually a private vessel spotted Lewis in the water and rescued him.

Continuing coverage of the Seacor Power disaster:

Seacor Power rescue basket found in Cameron Parish

Attorney for Seacor captain’s widow expects litigation to be consolidated

Sen. Kennedy urges federal action, sheriff’s office now assisting in Seacor search

Family of Seacor Power victim Ernest Williams files lawsuit

2 pounds of cocaine discovered during Seacor Power crewmember search

The lawsuit claims the defendants were negligent in failing to follow General Maritime Law for the safe operation of the Seacor Power, among other faults.

It also claims Lewis now suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and fears he will never be able to work offshore again.

The lawsuit is one of several filed by the Seacor Power victims and their families.

View the full lawsuit here

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