Warnings were issued before Seacor Power left dock; witnesses continue testimonies
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Week two of Coast Guard hearings into the Seacor Power disaster resumed with more graphic testimony from witnesses who survived the ordeal.
A National Weather Service forecaster said warnings were issued just prior to the lift boat leaving Port Fourchon and throughout the afternoon.
Coast Guard investigators in Houma watched graphic video of gale-force winds pushing into Port Fourchon around the same time on April 13 that the Seacor Power was capsizing.
The wind was strong enough to move a huge dockside crane, while seven miles south in the Gulf, it was toppling the lift boat Seacor Power carrying 19 men, including Zachary Louviere, whose account was read into the record by Coast Guard hearing officer Captain Tracy Phillips.
“I went to my locker to try and find a life jacket. Apparently, it was under the beds,” read Phillips.
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Phillips also read testimony from other survivors, including Charles Scallan:
“On the way down the weather got real bad and I heard a noise on the first level. I stuck my nose on the first level to see what was going on and the next thing you know the boat’s going over and I heard Captain Dave say ‘everybody grab a life jacket’ and we were on the side keeling over,” Phillips read.
Phillip Grigsby, the lead forecaster for the National Weather Service in Slidell, said warnings of 34 knot winds and the potential for capsized boats were issued as early as 12:07 that afternoon, shortly before the lift boat left the dock. Grigsby says the warning was issued at least three other times that afternoon.
Survivor attorney Paul Sterbcow, asked Grigsby, “If owners of vessels wanted to know about the weather they could’ve availed themselves to that information you’ve been talking about correct?”
“That’s correct,” Grigsby responded.
The Seacor Power eventually encountered winds estimated at nearly 80 mph before it capsized, killing 13 crewmembers. Cpt. Phillips read this account from survivor Zachary Louviere:
“We were there for another 20 minutes and this big wave throws Brandon (survivor Brandon Aucoin) into the water and we all talked about if we go in the water, we’re all going and we will stick together but then it happened. Brandon goes in the water... he goes underneath and pops out and he’s waving his hands and he’s fine and I looked behind, and there’s another boat. I figured they were going to pick him up, and then I watched him as far as I could and then he was out of sight.”
That survivor, Brandon Aucoin, was eventually picked up as were five others.
The hearings are now at their midway point and will continue through the week.
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