Final NTSB report on SEACOR Power liftboat disaster outlines fatal failures to notify, locate crew

Published: Oct. 18, 2022 at 10:44 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - More than a year after the SEACOR Power liftboat capsized eight miles off the coast of Port Fourchon, killing 13 on board, the National Transportation Safety Board has delivered a final report examining what went wrong that day.

“They could have been warned about what was coming, before it was on top of them,” said Hugh “Skip” Lambert, the attorney for Captain David Ledet’s family.

There were 19 crewmen aboard the SEACOR Power on April 13, 2021, when it headed into the Gulf for a job on an oil rig it never reached. The vessel capsized in a storm, and only six survivors returned home.

“We can’t lose sight of the fact that the families involved in this case -- the survivors as well as the family members that lost people -- they’re the ones that bear the brunt of all of this,” Lambert said. “And it’s terrible.”

The NTSB concluded that Ledet’s decision to take the crew out was reasonable, based on the forecast he had. But the investigation determined that forecast had been deficient.

“Everything that he did was well within the proper conduct of a captain of a vessel like that,” Lambert said. “He can’t do things without the tools to do them, and they didn’t have it.”

The report largely blames the United States Coast Guard’s navigational warning system -- it wasn’t working -- meaning Ledet and his crew never got the National Weather Service’s alert warning of 35-knot winds and possible hail in the area.

The NTSB said the SEACOR Power capsized because its captain and crew weren’t warned in time to raise the vessel before the strong winds and violent waters tipped it over.

“There was plenty of time,” Lambert said. “It was 40-some odd minutes between the last special marine warning and the capsize. It wouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to jack that boat up to a safe position.”

There were also deficiencies in the emergency response to the disaster, the board said. The investigation found the SEACOR Marine dispatcher incorrectly told the Coast Guard the vessel was still at Port Fourchon. The Coast Guard then failed to verify the vessel’s location, delaying the launch of search-and-rescue efforts.

“I think that the owners of the vessel -- in this case SEACOR (Marine) -- have an obligation to train their people to at least know where their vessel is,” Lambert said. “The call needs to go to someone who’s familiar with the location of vessel and can aid with a plan to help save lives.”

Lambert said he agrees with the report’s recommendations that personal location devices be issued to crew members, for the possibility they get separated from a vessel.

“The maritime industry in Louisiana is the lifeline backbone of our economy and people’s way of life,” Lambert said. “It’s so important that we protect those mariners.”

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