The vessel was a 129-foot liftboat named Seacor Power, according to Armond Batiste, a spokesman for Seacor Marine, which owns the vessel. Coast Guard Captain Will Watson told reporters a crew of 19 people were onboard the vessel when it departed at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Seacor Marine had previously told The Post that 18 people were onboard when it capsized.
Asked about the prospect of finding those still missing, Watson said rescue officials remain hopeful.
“I’ll put it to you this way, whenever we engage, the Coast Guard engages in a search and rescue effort, we are hopeful,” he said during the news conference. “You can’t do this work if you’re not optimistic, if you’re not hopeful when you do it. … We’re one day approximately into this operation and we’re giving it all we got.”
The Coast Guard first got an emergency beacon from the Seacor Power at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday as the ship foundered about eight miles off Port Fourchon, a coastal town nearly 100 miles south of New Orleans.
Archie Chaisson III, the Lafourche Parish president, told The Post on Wednesday morning that rescue efforts would continue throughout the day unless weather hinders ongoing rescue efforts.
The Tuesday incident occurred as a slow-moving complex of intense thunderstorms, which had unleashed damaging wind gusts around New Orleans that toppled trees and damaged roofs, moved over the Gulf of Mexico. The National Weather Service issued a special marine warning for coastal waters around Port Fourchon at 3:57 p.m., warning severe thunderstorms could produce wind gusts of at least 39 mph (34 knots) and large hail.
“Boats could sustain damage or capsize. Make sure all on board are wearing life jackets,” the warning stated. “Return to safe harbor if possible.”
A ship in the gulf headed for Port Fourchon recorded a gust of 117 mph (102 knots), according to Payton Malone, a meteorologist for WWL-TV, the CBS affiliate in New Orleans. A weather buoy at Grand Isle, about 15 miles to the northeast, clocked a wind gust of 75 mph and tropical-storm force winds (of at least 39 mph) lasted for about an hour.
The intensity and duration of high winds appeared to be linked to a phenomenon known as a “wake low,” a small-scale zone of low-pressure which can flank strong thunderstorm complexes. This allowed seas to build higher than they would have otherwise.
“It’s been a crazy day meteorological with very impactful winds from both a line of thunderstorms, and a long duration strong wind event due to a wake low,” wrote the Weather Service office serving the area around New Orleans on Tuesday night.
Severe weather was continuing to affect southern Louisiana and adjacent waters Wednesday. The Weather Service highlighted the region for an elevated risk of both severe thunderstorms and flash flooding. A bulletin issued at 9:14 a.m. Wednesday cautioned that the area could see up to 3 to 5 inches of rain through 3 p.m. In a discussion Wednesday morning, the Weather Service wrote that that weather pattern was very similar to Tuesday’s but that severe thunderstorm winds should not be quite as widespread.
Chaisson said some family members of those onboard the capsized vessel had arrived at Port Fourchon on Tuesday night.
“We continue to pray for the men on the vessel and their families and rescue operators that are out, that we can bring everyone home safely,” Chaisson said.
Ive NEVER Heard soo many MAYDAY calls in my life!” a man named Bruce Simon, who said he was on a boat in the gulf at the time, posted to Facebook along with images of heavy seas. “Waves are breaking over the bow! A liftboat flipped. … An other boats have flipped an are taking on water!”
Amid the gale, the Seacor Power capsized. The liftboat is designed with a wide, open deck and can raise itself out of the water on stilts to perform maintenance on oil rigs. The Seacor Power could carry up to 12 crew members and 36 passengers, according to its online specifications.
The Coast Guard cutter Glenn Harris, a 154-foot rescue ship, scrambled to the scene within a half-hour of receiving the emergency beacon, joining multiple good Samaritan boat crews that also answered the call. Coast Guard photos from the scene show the Seacor Power nearly completely submerged in turbulent seas, with just one corner of the boat jutting up from the water.
The Glenn Harris rescued one person from the water, while another Coast Guard crew on a 45-foot boat found another survivor. Four others were saved by good Samaritans, the Coast Guard said.
The Glenn Harris remained on scene to keep searching for survivors overnight along with various Coast Guard helicopters and aircraft, Lally said. Another Coast Guard cutter was also en route to the area to assist.
“Please join @FirstLadyofLA and me in praying for those who remain missing after yesterday’s capsizing off the coast of Grand Isle and for those who are working to rescue them,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) tweeted.
In a tweet, Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) said he’s “praying for everyone around Grand Isle and all the communities in South Louisiana.”
“Please stay safe in the storm,” Kennedy added.