Louisiana capsized ship: Coast Guard to halt search for missing crew members

PORT FOURCHON, La. (NewsNation Now) — The U.S. Coast Guard on Monday was set to call off a week-long search for the remaining eight people missing after a commercial lift boat used to service oil rigs capsized in hurricane force winds south off Louisiana’s Port Fourchon.

The search will end at sunset on Monday, the U.S. Coast Guard announced at a midday news briefing.

A total of 19 people were on board when the 129-foot commercial vessel, Seacor Power, went over in rough seas in the Gulf of Mexico, eight miles off Port Fourchon about 4:30 p.m. last Tuesday, April 13.

Six people had been rescued, five bodies were recovered and a search for the remaining eight will continue on Monday until sunset, the Coast Guard said.

NewsNation affilate WGNO reports the fifth body was found over the weekend but it is so “badly decomposed, it cannot be identified.”

Authorities said that the body was found on the second floor of the boat and they were working to confirm the identity.

There were a total of 19 crewmembers. Six people were rescued alive after the boat capsized Tuesday in a storm. Four other bodies have been found — one Wednesday, one Thursday and two on Friday.

As of Monday morning, the Lafourche Parish Coroner’s Office is confirming the following dead:

  • Captain David Ledet, 63,
  • Ernest Williams, 69,
  • Anthony Hartford, 53,
  • James Wallingsford, 55,
  • The one unidentified body is confirmed by family members

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

At the time of the accident, winds were about 80 miles per hour to 90 mph in 7- to 9-foot seas.

A lift boat, also called a “jack barge,” has extendable 250-foot legs that can reach the sea bottom. The vessel is often used by energy companies for offshore construction projects or to service oil rigs.

The vessel is owned by Seacor Marine, a transportation company based in Houston.

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 and waves 7 to 9 feet high, 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 Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate.

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

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.

The United Cajun Navy also joined the search efforts Sunday.

The Associated Press, Reuters and NewsNation affiliate WGNO contributed to this report.