The fourth day of formal public hearings began on Thursday, August 5, into the capsizing of the liftboat Seacor Power.
Over the course of three 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.
Thursday's hearing concluded following testimony from two members of the helicopter flight crew who responded to the scene. Also testifying were a US Coast Guard marine inspector and one surveyor with the American Bureau of Shipping.
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.
Below is a recap of Day 4.
Members of the Bristow Helicopter Flight Crew, Jason Jennison and Jim Peters, testified on Thursday on their response to the capsizing of the Seacor Power.
Bristow Helicopters responded to the scene of the capsizing on April 13. Both men were on board the aircraft with Peters as the hoist operator and Jennison as rescue specialist.
Peters said the crew learned of a possible vessel in distress at 6:30 pm from a Bristow customer that Peters identified as Shell Oil.
Their helicopter left from Galliano at 7:15 pm after Bristow received a call from Coast Guard to assist. The helicopter arrived at the scene at 7:30 pm.
"We did put eyes on the survivors," Peters said. "They were waving to us so we knew where they were."
Hoovering at 80 feet, Jennison was deployed from the helicopter to get as close to the survivors as possible. He was able to get onto the railing of the vessel but the waves, wind and dark conditions made it difficult to see, he said.
For 15 to 30 seconds, Jennison said he was able to make contact with one survivor near three black pipes on the deck about 15 feet from him. That survivor reportedly pointed to two other survivors near another bulkhead several feet away. After 10 or 15 minutes Jennison was pulled back into the aircraft to tell the crew what he had seen.
Video of the night of the rescue was played during the hearing and Jennison and Peters discussed what was taking place. The two talked about the three survivors seen near three black pipes on the deck. Rescue efforts for the crew focused on that area and a rescue swimmer was deployed the following day to search. No survivors were found.
On the night of the incident, the helicopter crew decided it was best to get the survivors into the water to perform a rescue due to the dangerous conditions and unknown stability of the vessel.
"It could have possibly pulled us out of the sky," Peters said.
Jennison called for the survivors to get into the water but he said none of the them would.
The coast guard response boat crews called for the helicopter to provide flotation and radio devices to the crew. The survivors were able to retrieve the radios and flotation devices.
The Bristow crew then broke off to complete a rescue pattern and allowed the coast guard to establish contact via radio with the crewmembers.
Peters said that communication was difficult due to the weather conditions.
"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."
Communications were becoming more difficult and because fuel was low, the helicopter left to refuel. During refueling the crews began a roundtable discussion on what the next move would be. After 30 minutes, the crews returned to the scene.
Jennison said on their return to the scene they learned that one crewmember had left the Seacor Power but was unable to be located. The helicopter crew searched the area for that person before it was determined that they needed to get back to the vessel to help retrieve the remaining survivors.
"The vessel had settled a good 15 feet while we were gone," Jennison said.
Every 5 to 10 seconds, waves were crashing over the survivors.
"The probability to get them off of there was a long shot. I've been doing this for 27 years, I've never seen it that bad," he said.
The crew tried to put Jennison on the deck of the Seacor Power three times but each time was unsuccessful.
"There was no way to safely get over the railing and down into the vessel," he said.
Jennison said that he decided he would unhook from the cable and float with a group of three survivors if they jumped from the vessel.
"The voices of the people that night, trying to get them to jump into that ocean, would have taken a leap of faith to do." said Jennison.
Jennison said that there were better odds that they would survive if they had entered the water rather than staying behind.
A coast guard helicopter did finally arrive on scene and then left after stating that it was too dangerous to hoist.
"We figured that this would be their one attempt to swim out, unfortunately they didn't," Jennison said.
Peters said that the crew, without success, left for the night. They landed back in Galliano at 11:00 pm.
"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.
Lieutenant j.g. Aaron Rice with the United States Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit in Houma testified following a break for lunch on Thursday.
Rice was the last person to inspect the Seacor Power. That annual inspection and certification occurred February 2021. It was Rice's first time conducting an annual inspection of the Seacor Power. He served as an apprentice marine inspector out of MSU in Houma.
The annual inspection was done within two hours with another Lieutenant with the Coast Guard. Rice and his co-inspector conducted a fire drill on board.
Three deficiencies were found on the vessel during the inspection, two of which were fixed that day. The third, which Rice described as the need for life saving training manuals in rooms and cabins, was corrected at a later date.
Rice said that bilge alarm systems were functioning normally that day. He said he was not aware of any equipment that was out of service.
The engine room, he described, was in good condition with only a shaft seal deficiency. No other deficiencies caught his attention.
Rice said that all watertight and weathertight doors were checked to ensure they were functioning properly. No problems were found with those doors.
Henri Jreij with the American Bureau of Shipping was on board the Seacor Power during its annual inspection. Rice spoke with him following the inspection to discuss the vessel and any concerns he had. Rice said the Jreij did not have any concerns regarding the inspection.
Rice testified that, in reference to his inspections, Seacor was above average in the condition of their vessels and that their number of deficiencies was about average.
ABS surveyor Matthew Barrie testified on Thursday that he and his survey partner Henri Jreij found the Seacor Power to be in compliance with all American Bureau of Shipping requirements during their annual survey in February 2021.
He noted that some deficiencies were found on board but were all were mitigated.
Barrie had inspected the Seacor Power on three separate occasions including two annual surveys and an intermediate dry docking survey.
Sessions can be watched online at this link: https://livestream.com/uscginvestigations.
BELOW ARE A QUICK RECAP OF DAYS 1, 2 and 3
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.
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.
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