(KLFY) — It’s common knowledge that Louisiana is subject to weather-related tragedy, but typically, Louisianans have time to prepare for events like tornados or hurricanes. But the Seacor Power tragedy was something that no one was prepared for.
On April 13, an oil field lift boat called the Seacor Power capsized off the shore of Port Fourchon after a severe weather system moved through the Gulf of Mexico. Of the 19 crew members that were on board, only six returned home. Six men died and seven are still missing.
Dozens of people — family members, spouses, friends, and coworkers of the crewmen — were affected by the tragedy. Many of the crew were from the Acadiana region. Community members came together in ways unseen before to support those impacted and to honor the men who died and the ones who weren’t found.
Because of the tragic incident, lawsuits were filed, bills were introduced in Congress, a nonprofit organization was founded, a family ended its generations-long relationship with the oil field, and the Coast Guard even came under fire and questioning after the way search and rescue operations were handled.
News 10 Chief Meteorologist Heath Morton explained what a wake low is:
A wake low forms after storms or a shield of rain moves through an area and a meso high forms behind it. The air cools and starts to clear. About 50-60 miles to the west northwest of the meso high, a wake low forms from warm, descending air. This causes a pressure gradient between the meso high and wake low, and winds can get strong in this pressure gradient. Sometimes the winds can be anywhere from 70-90 mph, which is equivalant to a weak hurricane. This all started inland near New Orleans and moved offshore, causing the high winds. These events are rare and very hard to forecast. Another name is a gravity wave.Heath Morton
Countless fundraisers and donation methods were established to support the search and rescue efforts and families of the Seacor Power victims. A nonprofit was developed after 13 families were impacted by the deaths/disappearances of their loved ones that were aboard the vessel.
Lift Acadiana, launched by Brooke Freeman of New Iberia, was originally founded with the intent to support the 13 families who lost loved ones in the Seacor Power incident, but the nonprofit has extended further to help Hurricane Ida victims as well.
Its website says, “Lift Acadiana is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) charity organization, organized and operated to provide support to those within our Louisiana community.”
The community certainly stepped in to offer love and support to those impacted through countless fundraisers, events, sales, and donation links.
Lawsuits / Family testimony
At least nine civil suits were filed in federal courts over the incident. The Associated Press reported that two of the six survivors filed suit after barely escaping the capsized boat and then drifting in rough, frigid Gulf waters for 2-3 hours.
The first two lawsuits were filed on April 23 by the families of missing crew members Dylan Daspit and Jay Guevara.
Hannah Daspit, the wife of missing crew member Dylan Daspit, and Krista Vercher, fiance of missing crew member Jay Guevara, allege in their lawsuits that Seacor Marine and Talos Energy are to blame for costing the men their lives.
Ernest Williams, a 69-year-old from Arnaudville, was a cook on the Seacor Power. His was the second body found by search and rescue crews.
Williams’s family’s lawsuit was the first filed inside Louisiana, which is why the document doesn’t have a set dollar amount inside like the previous lawsuits from Texas filed by the families of Dylan Daspit and Jay Guevara; however, the Williams family is also seeking at $25M, if not more in compensation, according to attorney Morris Bart.
The suit claimed Seacor Marine, Seacor Liftboats, and Talos Energy put profit before safety and the lives of the crew. But the lawsuit also included Semco, the lift boat manufacturer, as a responsible party.
Scott Daspit, the father of crew member Dylan Daspit, spoke with News 10 in October — six months after the tragedy — about life without his son and without answers about his son.
Daspit said he ended a generations-long relationship that his family had with the oilfield.
The United States Coast Guard is known as America’s oldest maritime defenders. Part of its mission is helping boaters in distress and saving lives.
After the Seacor Power lift boat capsized in rough weather in the Gulf of Mexico on April 13th, the Coast Guard conducted search and rescue operations, but called off the search for the missing approximately six days later, they said because it was improbable the men would survive in the water for so long.
When the USCG initially responded, one of the first rescue cutters to the lift boat had to leave while there were still men on the boat. The Coast Guard said that the cutter rescued a crew member then returned to shore, leaving some men behind, because the person they rescued was seriously injured.
A commercial helicopter lowered down life jackets and a radio to them. The coast guard was in radio contact with the men. The men said they were going back into the ship. Soon after, communication was lost.
The Coast Guard ultimately suspended its rescue operations on April 19. Eight men were still unaccounted for at the time of the suspension.
Members of the Coast Guard also reportedly tried to take eight life jackets and three hard hats that were found by volunteers helping in grassroots search efforts. According to the family of missing crew member Dylan Daspit, representatives from the USCG arrived at the search command center, at the harbor light marina in Cocodrie, La. on Tuesday, April 27th. The family says they refused to allow the items to be taken.
For these reasons, the Coast Guard came under fire by community members and family members of the crew.
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) introduced the Vessel Response Plan Improvement Act in the wake of the Seacor Power tragedy. According to Kennedy’s website, the bill would require commercial vessels to provide timely notifications to the crew’s family members throughout search and rescue operations.
All commercial oil industry vessels are currently required to develop a detailed vessel response plan that the U.S. Coast Guard approves. Vessel owners follow these plans during emergencies such as oil spills or capsized boats.
Existing regulations for vessel response plans include no requirement that vessel owners provide the families of crewmembers with any timely updates in the event of search and rescue operations. The Vessel Response Plan Improvement Act would ensure that loved ones of crew members receive timely notice throughout any future emergencies.
Kennedy and Higgins also requested Congressional hearings into the Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) responses to the incident.
The Coast Guard held a two-week-long, formal public hearing to consider evidence related to the capsizing of the Seacor Power and the loss of 13 of its 19 crewmembers. The hearing was held in Houma, La. from August 2-13.