BATON ROUGE, La (KLFY) – The United Cajun Navy received a $10,000 donation from former President Donald Trump to help the search and rescue efforts of the Seacor Power victims.
United Cajun Navy founder Todd Terrell confirmed Friday that the former president made a hefty donation toward the rescue efforts of the seven men who are still missing from the Seacor Power crew.
The search for survivors from a capsized lift boat in the Gulf of Mexico has closed and attention now turns to comforting the loved ones of the five known dead and eight missing, a grim hunt for bodies and a painstaking investigation that could take up to two years.
Seven days after the Seacor Power capsized in rough waters on April 12 while it was traveling about eight miles off the Louisiana coast, the Coast Guard on Monday suspended the search and rescue operation for the eight people still missing from the vessel. All told, the searched had covered 9,000 square miles (23,000 square kilometers) of waters off Louisiana.
Nineteen people were on board the vessel. Six were rescued on the first day. Five bodies have been pulled from the sea or from the ship by divers. For the families, it has been a brutal wait to find out what happened. Many of them gathered twice daily for updates from officials.
“We just feel so blessed that we are able to take him home, and we hope for the rest of the families that they are able to take their loved ones home, too,” said Frank Boeckl, whose nephew, Lawrence J. Warren, was the fifth body pulled from the ship.
Warren was from Terrytown, one of the many workers who come to Port Fourchon, the sprawling complex in southeastern Louisiana that is home to the vast array of boats, helicopters and other equipment that services the oil and gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico. From there, workers head out to oil rigs or other jobs, often for weekslong shifts.
The president of Seacor Marine, which owned the boat, vowed Monday that they would do everything in their power to find the remaining people. John Gellert said 17 divers were on site, and they are about halfway through the vessel as of midday Monday. Gellert also said that divers from a company Seacor contracts with were on the scene four hours after the ship capsized.
“We are steadfast in our efforts to return those who remain missing,” Gellert said. But he added that efforts will depend on the weather, not just on the surface but below the surface. “The currents are currently very strong. That will determine diving windows. When we are able to dive we will dive continuously.”
In that part of the Gulf visibility may also be an issue. Sediment carried down from the Mississippi River makes the Gulf’s waters murky much of the time. In addition, storms can stir up the muddy bottom at much greater depth than the area where the Seacor Power is located.
In the shallow waters off Louisiana, “it’s almost always poor visibility to none,” said Scott Anderson, president of Logan Diving and Salvage in Jacksonville, Florida. He estimated that in the area where the Seacor Power overturned, visibility would be a couple of feet even with the aid of lighting.
It could be as long as two years before the National Transportation and Safety Board comes up with a final determination of what happened to the Seacor Power and why. But during a news conference Monday, Seacor’s president gave some information about what the company knows so far.
The offshore oil industry boat that overturned in a deadly Gulf of Mexico disaster last week was ordered to sea in dangerous conditions by an energy company that put “money over safety,” a pair of $25 million lawsuits assert.
The lawsuits were filed in Texas state court in Houston by a lawyer for Hannah Daspit and Krista Vercher, both of Louisiana. Daspit’s husband, Dylan Daspit, and Vercher’s fiance, Jay Guevara, were among the 19 people working on the boat when it overturned in stormy weather April 13. Six people were rescued, and six bodies had been recovered and identified as of Friday afternoon. Dylan Daspit and Guevara were among seven missing and presumed dead.
Haspit filed suit Wednesday in Texas state court in Houston. Vercher, suing on behalf of herself and Guevara’s child, sued Friday. Both suits, filed by attorney Francis Spagnoletti, fault Talos Energy as well as lift boat operator Seacor Marine LLC and its affiliate Seacor Lifftboats LLC for the fatal accident.
They are the first of what is expected to be numerous lawsuits filed over the capsizing of the Seacor Power, a 234-foot-long (71-meter-long) lift boat. The vessel was en route from Port Fourchon, Louisiana, to a Talos platform when it overturned.
“Dylan Daspit lost his life in the tragic capsizing of the vessel, for the decision of these Defendants to put money over his life,” the Daspit lawsuit said.
The similarly worded lawsuit filed Friday says “Krista Vercher lost her better half,” and adds that Guevara’s child lost his father.
The lawsuits involve issues likely to be critical in a National Transportation Safety Board investigation, which is expected to take as long as two years, and in litigation. They include the role of the weather in the capsizing, whether the vessel should have put to sea despite forecasts of storms and who should be held responsible.
The suits list numerous allegations against the companies, including that they failed to adequately assess weather conditions and failed to have an emergency plan. The suits specifically accuse Talos of “ordering the vessel to sea in unsafe conditions as the charterer.”
Seacor did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday. A spokesman for Talos said the company does not comment on litigation. The company, however, had already addressed the decision to leave port before the lawsuit was filed.
“The Seacor Power was in port for service and inspections for several days prior to its departure,” the company said Saturday in answer to a query by The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate. “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.” The statement was confirmed Friday by spokesman Brian Grove.
The captain of the vessel, David Ledet, 63, was among the dead. He is not mentioned in the lawsuit.
National Weather Service forecasts and advisories archived by Iowa State University show a special marine warning for the waters off Port Fourchon shortly after noon on April 13. It warned of a thunderstorm in the area with winds in excess of 34 knots (39 mph or 63 km/h), which are tropical storm force winds, and “suddenly higher waves.”
“Boats could sustain damage or capsize. Make sure all on board are wearing life jackets. Return to safe harbor if possible,” the warning said.
Still, there was no indication before the boat’s departure at 1:30 p.m. of the winds in excess of 80 mph (129 km/h), which are well beyond hurricane strength, and waves 7 to 9 feet high (2.1 to 2.7 meters) that the Coast Guard said the boat encountered about the time it overturned after 4 p.m.
John Gellert, president of Seacor, has said the forecasts did not portend weather the boat was incapable of handling.
“The weather they were forecasted to encounter was well within the limits of the vessel. The weather that they encountered was well beyond the forecast, as far as we know, at this time,” he said during a news conference Monday.
Gellert said then that the decision on whether to go or not was up to the captain. He also said Ledet had the company’s full support.