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PORT FOURCHON, La. (AP) – Families eagerly awaited news of the 12 people missing from a capsized oil industry vessel Thursday, as divers searching for survivors hit the ship’s hull with no response .
Rescuers are unsure if any of the missing could be caught inside the lift boat called Seacor Power which tipped over in hurricane-force winds and on the high seas on Tuesday about eight miles off the coast of Louisiana, Coast Guard spokespersons said. .
“There is potential, they’re still there, but we don’t know,” Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lally said Thursday. “We are still looking for 12 people, because there are 12 shortages.”
The Coast Guard said on Twitter that the divers were able to conduct operations on Thursday but heard nothing when they hit the hull of the vessel. The Guard said diving operations were over and would resume on Friday. They will continue to search overnight by air and sea.
A handful of the families of the missing workers have gathered at a two-story fire station in Port Fourchon, a sprawling port where much of the industry that serves oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico is based.
Workers from all over Louisiana and other parts of the country arrive at the port to board the fleet of helicopters and ships that take them to oil rigs miles away for long shifts. The flat landscape is punctuated by cranes where cargo can be loaded or unloaded and docks or hangers to carry out repairs.
In a nearby port, shrimp fishing boats have been moored and fishing camps have been set up on stilts to protect them from incoming storms.
Marion Cuyler, who is engaged to crane operator Chaz Morales, spoke to reporters on Thursday outside the fire station after executive briefings with the owner of the Seacor boat and the Coast Guard. She said she believed the 12 missing were on board the ship.
Cuyler oscillated between optimism and fear as she spoke, but was hopeful that Morales was in a part of the ship that looked airy after the crash and would be saved alive.
“I hope they’re all in the same room and can just save them in one day,” she said.
She said she and other family members were frustrated and wanted answers as to why the boat died in the first place.
“I asked, ‘Who gave the orders’ and of course – silence,” she said. Cuyler said she told her future husband that he shouldn’t go out in such weather. “And he knew they shouldn’t have gone out.
A total of six people were rescued on Tuesday when the vessel capsized, and the Coast Guard released new details on Thursday on how the rescue was going. The crew of a Coast Guard vessel that responded to the vessel’s distress signal, which arrived at around 5:10 p.m. Tuesday, saw five men clinging to the hull, Petty Officer 3rd Class Carlos Galarza said.
A helicopter crew from Bristow, a shipping company, lowered life jackets and VHF radios to them, he said. Two of the men fell into the water and were recovered by the Coast Guard. At around the same time, ships of the Good Samaritan rescued four more people, he said. The Coast Guard was also able to speak to the three people still on the ship’s hull using the radios that had been jettisoned. Later Tuesday evening, the Coast Guard was informed that a person had fallen into the water and had not been seen.
Shortly before 10 p.m., the two remaining people told the Coast Guard they were heading inside, and this was the last time the Coast Guard spoke to them, Galarza said.
Coast Guard members in a boat walked within yards of the capsized vessel on Thursday and attempted to throw a hammer at the hull in an attempt to make contact with potential survivors, the agency said.
One person’s body was found in the water on Wednesday as researchers scanned an area roughly the size of Hawaii, the Coast Guard said. The Coast Guard said it had been classified as a “major marine accident”, with the National Transportation Safety Board joining the investigation.
The Lafourche Parish Coroner’s Office identified the dead man as David Ledet, 63, of Thibodaux – a town in southeast Louisiana where many people work in the oil industry.
“Capt. Dave was awesome, ”Journeyman and Crane Operator Joshua Segura said on Facebook. He said he worked with Ledet before moving to another offshore company, describing him as one of the nicest and most humble people he has met.
“Captain David has been on this boat for over 15 years and is one of the most experienced captains I have ever worked with,” he wrote.
Part of the overturned ship’s hull and one of its legs were still visible, leaving most of the bulky ship underwater, in an area 50 to 55 feet (15 to 17 meters) deep, according to the Coast Guard . The vessel has three long legs designed to reach the seabed and lift the boat out of the water as an offshore platform.
The vulnerabilities of lifting boats during storms have been known for years and federal authorities have investigated several deaths against them. Four people aboard the Trinity II died in September 2011 in the Gulf of Mexico when large waves hit its hull. Then, in July 1989, an elevator boat sank off the coast of Louisiana in storms associated with Hurricane Chantal. Ten of the 14 people on board died.
Coast Guard Captain Will Watson said the winds were 80 to 90 mph (130 to 145 km / h) and the waves rose 7 to 9 feet (2.1 to 2.7 meters ) when the Seacor Power tipped over.
Martin reported from Atlanta. Photographer Gerald Herbert contributed to this story from Grand Isle, Louisiana, and reporters Janet McConnaughey and Rebecca Santana contributed from New Orleans.