Coast Guard divers hope to reach 12 missing in capsized ship

Stacey Plaisance, Kevin Mcgill And Jeff Martin Associated Press
Friday, April 16, 2021

PORT FOURCHON, La. (AP) — Divers searching for oil industry workers on a capsized lift boat prepared to enter the vessel Friday, a rescue effort complicated by daunting technical challenges and continued bad weather.

The hope is that the 12 missing people have found air pockets to survive inside the Seacor Power, most of which is submerged in 50-foot seas about 8 miles (13 kilometers) off the Louisiana coast.

“As long as the weather permits, the divers will try to gain to access to the vessel. That is the ultimate goal,” Petty Officer 3rd Class Carlos Galarza said early Friday.

Two of the missing had been communicating with rescuers by two-way radio after the ungainly platform ship flipped over in hurricane-force winds Tuesday. They were spotted clinging to the overturned hull but returned to seek shelter inside after a third man fell into the water and was lost. There have not been any signs of life since then, officials said.

Time is of the essence because air pockets will eventually become depleted of oxygen, said Mauritius Bell, diving safety officer at the California Academy of Sciences.

“It would be somewhat analogous to breathing in and out of a paper bag,” he added. “At some point, it’s not survivable.”

Surviving could depend on the size of the pocket. “The larger the better, and it’s all about time,” Bell said.

On Thursday, searchers knocked on the ship’s hull without response.

“There is the potential they are still there, but we don’t know,” Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lally said Thursday. “We’re still searching for 12 people because there are 12 still missing.”

Relatives of the missing gathered at a fire station at Port Fourchon, a sprawling base for much of the offshore oil and gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico. The port, busy with cranes, cargo and heavy equipment, is where workers from across Louisiana and beyond load up on a fleet of helicopters and ships that take them to the rigs for long stretches of work.

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