Formal public hearings into the capsizing of the liftboat Seacor Power have been adjourned.
Over the first week, testimonies were heard from two survivors of the capsizing, witnesses to the capsizing, and Coast Guard personnel who were on duty the day of the incident.
On Friday testimony was heard from Jaideep Sirkar USCG Headquarters Naval Architecture Division Chief and David Hodapp Chevron Technical Center Naval Architect.
In total, the board heard from 31 witnesses and identified 230 pieces of evidence as exhibits of public record regarding the investigation.
The daily hearings began at 8:00 am at the Courtyard Marriot Hotel in Houma and continued until August 13.
“Today marks the conclusion of this public hearing, but it does not mark the end of our work as a Marine Board of Investigation,” said Marine Board of Investigation Chairwoman Capt. Tracy Phillips, U.S. Coast Guard. “We will continue to collect and review any evidence that may be submitted in the future. We will also begin our transition to the analysis phase of this investigation, and then later start compiling our report. On behalf of the entire board, I'd like to express our deepest condolences to the friends, shipmates, and families of the mariners who were lost during this accident. Our investigation can’t change the outcome of this tragic event, but our team is determined to examine every aspect of the incident, to push for any needed changes to enhance maritime safety and to prevent similar casualties from occurring in the future.”
During these hearings the Coast Guard considered 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 spoke over the course of the sessions. See the schedule.
The board will now compile its findings into a report of investigation, which will be publicly released after the convening authority, the Commandant, evaluates the recommendations and releases a final action memo outlining the Coast Guard's position on the board's recommendations.
WATCH Sessions can be watched online at this link: https://livestream.com/uscginvestigations.
Documents, exhibits, videos, and other hearing information is available at this link: https://www.news.uscg.mil/News-by-Region/Headquarters/Seacor-Power/
Jaideep Sirkar USCG Headquarters Naval Architecture Division Chief was the first to speak at the hearings Friday morning.
Sirkar served 11 years in that position but has been with the Coat Guard for 30 years. In his role, he supervises leads and manages naval architects, civilian and Coast Guard. As supervisor he assigns tasks and reviews output related to regulations, policies, determinations, and standard on the levels of safety.He works in tandem with the Safety Center with policy development.
Sirkar went over regulations for lift boats and how those vessels meet requirements. He also continued the discussion of stability when it comes to wind speeds for the vessel.
The panel of investigators continued to press if the the vessel meets regulations would said vessel still survive interactions with strong winds and wave heights. Sirkar responded that as a general statement, that question is nearly impossible to answer.
David Hodapp Chevron Technical Center Naval Architect was the last person to provide testimony at the hearings.
Hodapp testified based on a study that he published on wind load. In a general sense Hodapp says that he looked at accuracy of wind loading estimates on vessels.
Captain Phillips thanks those involved in the hearing and proceedings including the team and staff at the Mariot in Houma and Houma Police and Terrebone Parish technology team.
They thanked Coast Guard members from the area who facilitated the hearings.
NTSB thanked the parties involved for the support and invitation to be a part of the hearings these past two weeks. NTSB will release a report on their own about their findings. An approximate time on when that report on the cause of the capsizing was not provided.
Counsel for First Mate Mires thanked the panel, and hoped that the investigation would result in findings that would help stop these types of disasters from happening again.
Seacor and Falcon Global thanked those involved, and provided their condolences to those involved in the tragic events. "We look forward to any information developed to help us in those ends [safety]," representatives stated.
ABS also offered condolences to those families of those lost and those survivors. They say they will continue to help identify steps to enhance safety at sea and will continue to cooperate with the investigation going forward
The public hearings are concluded but collection of evidence will continue. The Coast Guard says that evidence can continue to be provided.
They will begin the analysis of the investigation but hearings may happen again if necessary.
Captain Phillips thanked the Seacor survivors who testified at the hearings and wished condolences those those left behind that were lost at sea. Captain Phillips noted that the date August 13, 2021 is 4 months since the capsizing and a moment of silence was held.
The hearing was then formally adjourned at 11:59 am
---RECAP FROM WEEK 2 :Day 6, 7, 8, and 9
Joe Rousseau ABS Director of Offshore Technology & Tom Gruber ABS Chief Engineer of Statutes were the last to speak at the hearings on Thursday.
They answered questions based on the classification of vessels based on rules ABS publishes. These rules help designers and builders of vessels
They went over the Seacor Power classification. The vessel was built under ABS rules and that it was built under survey by an ABS surveyor.
The restricted service on the vessel indicated that the Seacor Power could only operate in certain depths.
Questions during this portion of the hearing centered around lift boat operation in high winds and rough seas. A panel member questioned both Gruber and Rosseau on the maximum sustained winds that a vessel such as the Seacor Power could withstand and remain stable. He questioned whether ABS provides sufficient information to vessel builders and operators regarding extreme weather conditions.
Rousseau and Gruber both agreed that it is something ABS would look into if it was found that changes were recommended for lift boats. There is information, they say, on what boats like the Seacor Power can withstand and remain stable. That information they say, is what they follow when designing, building, surveying and operating vessels.
At the beginning of Monday's hearing, Capt Tracy Phillips read fragments of testimony from survivors of the Seacor Power.
Those testimonies gave a clearer picture of how the survivors managed to escape the capsized vessel and documented the actions of survivors. Many gave reports of those had escaped the vessel but are still unaccounted for. Statements read were from survivors Brandon Aucoin, James Gracien, Zachary Louviere, and Charles Scallan.
The first to testify on Tuesday was Phillip Grigsby with the National Weather Service in Slidell.
Grigsby was working the day shift and explained that on the day of the incident a bow echo moved across Southeast Louisiana and into the coastal waters. That bow echo was strengthened by a wake low, an uncommon occurrence, he said. Grigsby testified that the storm's high winds lasted longer than normally seen with those types of systems.
Also testifying was Commander Vince Taylor. Taylor testified of connectivity issues that the Chesapeake, Virginia Coast Guard Communications station was have with the New Orleans site on April 13. The connectivity issue was due to problems with the internet which he said are rare.
The final testimony came from Seacor Superintendent Tommy Saunier. He testified about his role as superintendent and his duties of taking care of repairs and maintenance for Seacor liftboats.
Saunier explained in the past their was an issue with Seacor Power's legs that caused it to list, but that those issues had been fixed. While the legs weren't checked during the last routine drydocking, he said there was no need to inspect them because if they were damaged then the boat would have been listing during drydocking, which it was not.
Speaking of Captain Ledet, Saunier said they had been friends for a long time and that "if he knew of any problem he would not have left."
Read more from Day 6 of testimony, here.
Off-Boat Captain Scott Timmons testified on Tuesday morning. Timmons was on board the Seacor Power on the morning of the incident. He and his crew were changing out with the new crew that would be taking control of the vessel.
Timmons described operations on board the Seacor Power at the time of his voyage and said that there were no issues. Notably, Timmons explained that before coming into Port Fourchon at the end of their job a storm caused the ship to lose a life raft and sustain damage to a grating on the starboard leg tower.
Timmons noted that during that weather system he did not receive alerts from any of the weather devices on the bridge.
Also testifying on Tuesday was Off-boat Chief Engineer James Endres.
Endres described his work on the Seacor Power and the functioning of the vessel prior to his disembarkation.
Seacor Operations Manager Paul Fremin provided the final testimony on Tuesday. Fremin has been the Operations Manager for Seacor liftboats since May 2020. He currently oversees five active vessels, and his duties include appraising Vessel Masters and things like their seamanship, conduct, and skills.
Fremin said on the morning of April 13, he called Captain David Ledet for an update on that morning's crew change. Fremin testified that he spoke to Ledet again later that day, who said everything was going well and the liftboat should be getting underway in the next few hours.
Fremin would receive one last communication with Ledet via an email at 12:17 p.m. stating he was jacking down from Bollinger/Port Fourchon for the 20-22 hour transit to Main Pass 138, and again stated "all good."
Fremin's next contact was with dispatch at 4:16 p.m., who said he'd gotten a call from the Coast Guard at 4:07 p.m. regarding a signal from the Seacor Power's (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) and wanting to verify the boat's beacon ID and the vessel's status.
Fremin said he then began making phone calls to try and find more information, including to Capt. Ledet, who "didn't answer." A short while later he heard from his boss, who said a nearby boat had reported seeing the Seacor Power capsize.
Read more from Tuesday's testimony, here.
Michael Cenac who serves as a Designated Person Ashore at Seacor Marine testified first on Wednesday.
Cenac described the type of audits that take place aboard lift boats for safety purposes and the last audit for the Seacor Power which occurred in March 2021, Cenac said. He described the reports on the day of the incident and detailed how information was passed from Seacor to the Coast Guard.
He also described the process of contacting the next of kin following the capsizing.
Also testifying was Seacor Marine Alt DPA and Auditor Barrett Charpentier testified. Charpentier described some of his auditing duties during testimony on Wednesday. He said that the most recent audit has not been finalized.
Seacor General Manager Joey Ruiz was the final person to testify on Wednesday detailing what happened on the day of the capsizing.
John Spath with Talos Engergy, Senior Vice President of Production in Houston Texas was the first to testify on Thursday August 12.
Spath provided insight on his daily operations which consists of meetings with production operations, talking to supervisors on any issues seen offshore, and make calls to rigs off shore to discuss any problems.
He along with Talos Logistics Manager Michael Boudreaux, Talos Logistics Manager provided a step by step look at April, 13th and their response to the Seacor Power capsizing.
They offered testimony on how Talos heard of the incident and how they immediately responded, including offering seeing out there fleets to find crew members following the capsizing.
See more here
BELOW IS A RECAP OF WEEK 1
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.
DAY 5Leonard Guidry, the captain of the Glenn Harris, 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.
Guidry testified about his actions to rescue survivors of the Seacor Power along with the Coast Guard and Bristow Helicopter crew.
During his testitmony Guidry said his boat crew took one Seacor Power crewmember on board and was in communication with some of the men on board the capsized vessel. He said that as conditions worsened during the night, two men on board radioed about taking refuge inside a hatch in the ship.
"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.
Guidry said after that communication, there were no more calls received from the radio.
Also testifying on Friday were auditors from the American Bureau of Shipping.
Read more from Day 5 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