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Seacor rescue crew waited 12 hours for mission approval from USCG

Published: Aug. 11, 2021 at 4:43 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Seacor Marine’s onshore liaison testified in Houma about his company’s response to an April offshore tragedy that killed 13 men.

He says a dive team search crew had to be flown in after the lift boat capsized and waited 12 hours to be approved for the rescue mission.

When the Seacor Power lift boat capsized in 80 mph winds on April 13, several boats braved the weather to conduct rescues, as Seacor called in the Ron Jon Smith dive team.

“It was less than an hour later. He said he could be there at midnight with a six-man dive team,” said Seacor Designated Person Ashore, Michael Cenac.

Seacor had to hire a charter plane to bring the dive team in, and though they arrived seven hours after the disaster, it took another 12 hours for the Coast Guard to approve the rescue plan.

“Do you know why it took so long?” asked a member of the investigative panel.

“Because the dive operation was considered high-risk because of the nature of the capsizing and the sea conditions we were experiencing,” testified Cenac.

Seacor General Manager Joey Ruiz testified that the company rescue effort was also hampered by mechanical problems with a boat hired to bring the divers to the capsize scene.

“Unfortunately, when we were going to move out the vessel, it reported some problems with the marine gear,” said Ruiz.

CONTINUING COVERAGE

Several vessels and a Bristow helicopter braved high winds and seas to rescue six crewmembers in the waters south of Port Fourchon in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.

Seacor officials say the divers could not get on scene until April 15, two days after the disaster. And they could only operate during daylight hours in their search for survivors. They testified that by that time, they only located victims inside the wrecked lift boat.

Hearings are expected to continue over the next two days.

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