Friday, August 6, closed out the first week of formal public hearings into the capsizing of the liftboat Seacor Power.
Over the course of four days, testimonies have been heard from two survivors of the capsizing, a witness, and Coast Guard personnel who were on duty the day of the incident.
Leonard Guidry, the captain of the Glenn Harris, testified on Friday. The Glenn Harris, a non-commissioned Coast Guard cutter at the time of the incident, was one of the first boats to respond to the scene following the capsizing.
The cutter was under the control of Bollinger Shipyard.
After a lunch break, Deniz Sharpe and Kyle Road, auditors with the American Bureau of Shipping testified.
The daily hearings begin at 8:00 am at the Courtyard Marriot Hotel in Houma and will continue until August 13.
During these hearings the Coast Guard will consider evidence related to the capsizing of the Seacor Power and the loss of 13 of its 19 crewmembers. Survivors of the incident and representatives of the agencies involved are scheduled to speak over the course of the sessions. See the schedule.
Sessions can be watched online at this link: https://livestream.com/uscginvestigations.
Leonard Guidry, the captain of the Glenn Harris, will testified on Friday morning. The Glenn Harris, a non-commissioned Coast Guard cutter at the time of the incident, was one of the first boats to respond to the scene following the capsizing.
The cutter was under the control of Bollinger Shipyard.
Guidry is a sea trial captain and has sea trialed about six or seven lift boats during his career.
On April 13, 2021, Guidry was underway on the cutter Glenn Harris doing a sea trial with a pre-commissioning crew that would be taking over the boat. It was the second day of two-day training.
Guidry said that the team had been monitoring the storms that day and knew possible severe weather was approaching.
The forecast, he remembered, came from the Weather Channel app and a wind finder app on his phone. Those reports showed a potential for up to 35 knot winds and 3 to 5 foot seas.
Guidry said in April it was quite unusual to get the line of storms that they received. He tesified that weather like that was more common in the wintertime, but still not to the degree of what they saw on April 13.
Guidry said his vessels receives weather warnings from Channel 16 and the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System.
At 1:30 pm, the Glenn Harris was at its mooring location at Port Fourchon. Guidry said he and the crew noticed the Seacor Power going southbound out of Bayou LaFourche. He said the boat looked good with no tilt.
The Glenn Harris got underway at about 2:00 pm and at 2:30 pm, caught up with the Seacor Power as it continued southbound near the jetties at Port Fourchon. Guidry mentioned the boat still looked normal.
The Glenn Harris then headed east to their training location off of Elmer's Island three miles south of Grand Isle.
Guidry recalled that the wind was blowing about 80 knots as the storm arrived that afternoon.
Guidry told Capt Stacy Phillips during questioning on Friday that the winds stayed high for about 15 to 20 minutes as the storm passed. The visibility, he noted, was heavily washed out.
"We could just barely see the bow of our boat during that wash out condition," Guidry said. "The weather was unexpected."
Guidry said he had never seen a storm like this in the gulf but has experienced something similar earlier in his career, about 20 years ago, when winds went up to 50 knots.
A few minutes into the storm, Guidry said his crew heard distress calls coming in on Channel 16. A tug boat was issuing a distress call near Barataria Pass. On Wednesday, Command Duty Officers with the Coast Guard testified that the tug was taking on water and was one of several distress calls received that day.
Guirdy said he did not hear any distress calls directly from the Seacor Power and was not in contact with the vessel before the storm arrived.
Once the more severe weather had passed, Guidry said someone came over Channel 16 stating that a lift barge had flipped and coordinates were given. That call, which came in around 4:00 pm, was from the coast guard sector with information provided by the Rockfish.
"I had an idea of who it was. I had just followed them out and left them," Guidry said. "So I decided to go ahead and ease out towards that area which was about 6 to 7 miles away."
The winds had diminished to 40 knots and visibility was getting better as the Glenn Harris headed to the coordinates.
Guidry got a visual of the liftboat flipped over around 5:00 pm
The cutter approached the area cautiously and Guidry said he called on both crews aboard the Glenn Harris to assist in potential rescues.
They began searching the debris field with other civilian boats that had already arrived.
He said his crew spotted five persons holding onto the side of the Seacor Power and decided to launch a small rescue boat to try to reach him.
Guidry said they quickly determined there was nothing they could do to reach the crewmembers and that the crewmembers were unwilling to get into the water.
He maneuvered to the west side of the Seacor Power and deployed a Jacobs ladder in the event that someone from the Seacor attempted to enter the water for a rescue.
The seas at the time, Guidry recalled, were slowly climbing to around 12 feet.
One survivor eventually got into the water and quickly drifted away from the vessel. Guidry said he kept up with him and got closer to attempt a rescue. A life ring was deployed and he was pulled towards the Jacobs ladder and onto the vessel.
Guidry identified that individual as Zachary Louviere.
He said a second of the five visible survivors got into the water and was retrieved by a 45 response boat. On Wednesday, Boatswain's Mates Jessica Gill and Anthony Abbate testified of the rescue efforts undertaken by the coast guard. Abbate's boat, he testified, retrieved the second individual from the water.
Guidry said that a Bristow helicopter arrived on scene to assist in the rescue. He testified that he could see the rescue specialist was having difficulties reaching the survivors.
A short time later, a third person entered the water, but Guidry said he did not know what happened with that person. During Wednesday's testimony, Boatswain's Mate Jessica Gill said that the third person was recovered onto her 45 foot Coast Guard response boat but was lost after one of her crewmembers and the person fell overboard.
Gill testified on Wednesday that the man was unresponsive when he was pulled on board.
Two persons were left on the Seacor Power. Guidry said the person on the lift boat communicating with the Coast Guard on the Glenn Harris was a man named Jay.
"We talked to Jay a couple of times, maybe for half an hour," he said.
That conversation took place around 10:00 pm, according to Guidry.
With the waves crashing worse onto the side of the Seacor Power, Guidry said Jay began mentioning a hatch near them that they could enter and be protected from the waves.
Guidry said he was unsure if they had ever entered hatch. Jay was able to continue short communications with the Glenn Harris. He said radio reception wasn't good but his crew continued to assure the two remaining survivors that help was still on the way.
"He was asking for help and how they were going to take shelter in that space inside the ship, where ever the hatch was," said Guidry.
By 10:30 pm, Guidry said there was no more communication with Jay.
"I started worrying about our fatigue factor because we weren't a coast guard boat set up for life saving operations," he said.
A Coast Guard helicopter arrived at 11:15 pm and said that lowering a rescue swimmer was too dangerous to rescue those persons still aboard the Seacor Power.
The Glenn Harris made the decision to return to Port Fourchon with their one survivor on board.
BELOW ARE A QUICK RECAP OF DAYS 1, 2, 3 and 4.
On Monday, survivor Dwayne Lewis shared his story. He said he was taught that if a boat went down in the Gulf, to break a window - but when it came down to it, it took the strength of two men. Lewis added he doesn't know how to swim, so when he entered the water, a new struggle began. He faced 10-12 foot waves amid a torrential downpour, lightning, and high winds.
Also speaking Monday was a captain near the Seacor during the storm, who said the weather that day was unlike anything he's ever experienced.
"It started drizzling, so we walked inside and that's when ... all hell broke loose," captain Ted Duthu said. The liftboat captain was on a nearby boat when the Seacor Power went down. He shared new video taken from his camera during the storm, which had waves higher than the projected 3-5 feet. He observed winds of 112 miles per hour.
When the rain died down, Duthu's crew found the Seacor Power on its side and called mayday.
To read more on Day 1 of testimony, click here.
On Tuesday, the Seacor Power's first mate, Bryan Mires, testified. Mires gave testimony about his experience during the capsizing of the liftboat and the weather conditions on the day of the incident. He detailed the operations of the liftboat and what checks were done by the crew before and during the boat's departure.
Mires said that he and Captain David Ledet discussed the weather on the day of the incident which, he recalled, was sunny with a few clouds.
Mires was the second survivor of the Seacor Power to speak during the hearings. He was one of six crewmembers rescued from the waters following the incident.
Also testifying on Tuesday was Coast Guard SAR Systems Specialist Edwin Thiedeman. He answered questions about the functioning of on-vessel devices that emit distress signals when activated.
To read more on Day 2 of testimony, click here.
On Wednesday, Coast Guard Command Duty Officers Lieutenant Brandon Critchfield and Lieutenant Seth Gross detailed their handling of the search and rescue response to the vessel on April 13.
Critchfield said that there was confusion caused in the District 8 office by incorrect information initially received from Seacor Marine that said the vessel was moored and not in distress. A beacon distress signal received on the afternoon of the incident did not provide details of the liftboat's location.
Boatswain's Mates Jessica Gill and Anthony Abbate also testified Wednesday, recalling their first-hand accounts as coxswains on the 45 foot response boats that arrived at the scene of the capsizing to rescue survivors.
Read more on Day 3 of testimony, here.
Thursday's hearing began with testimony from two members of the Bristow Helicopter flight crew, Jason Jennison and Jim Peters. The two testified about their response to the capsizing of the Seacor Power and the efforts taken to attempt rescues of the survivors on board.
The two said that the intense weather conditions that night and hesitation from the crew to abandon the sinking vessel made rescue attempts difficult.
"We asked them to get into the water," Peters said. "One of them came back on the radio and said, 'I can't swim.' You could hear the terror."
Jennison said at one point during the hearing that getting the crewmembers to jump into the ocean that night, "would have taken a leap of faith to do."
The odds of survival, he said, would have been better had they entered the water rather than staying behind.
"The outcome we wanted didn't happen," Peters said "In our parts, we failed because we didn't get the individuals off and back to base."
Coast Guard Capt. Tracy Phillips, chairwoman of the Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation, told Peters that she believes that the helicopter crew did the best they could.
Also testifying on Thursday were Lieutenant j.g. Aaron Rice with the United States Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit in Houma and Matthew Barrie a surveyor with the American Bureau of Shipping.
Read more from Day 4 of testimony, here.
A blog operated by the Coast Guard will provide hearing updates at www.mariners.coastguard.blog
The National Transportation Safety Board is the leading agency in the Seacor Power investigation. They will also participate in the Coast Guard public hearing. The NTSB is expected to produce an independent report with its own findings.
Anyone wishing to provide information that may assist the investigation and the public hearing can submit that information via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Seacor Power capsized in the Gulf of Mexico on April 13, 2021, approximately seven miles south of Port Fourchon. Nineteen crewmembers were on board at the time of the capsizing. Six crewmembers were initially rescued, and six were recovered unresponsive during the course of the response.
Following the incident, crews searched for a cumulative 175 hours, covering more than 9,200 square nautical miles, over the course of six days.
The search for the remaining seven crewmembers was suspended by the Coast Guard on April 19.
Stay in touch with us anytime, anywhere.
To reach the newsroom or report a typo/correction, click HERE.
Sign up for newsletters emailed to your inbox. Select from these options: Breaking News, Evening News Headlines, Latest COVID-19 Headlines, Morning News Headlines, Special Offers