On Tuesday, April 13, 2021, around 4:30 p.m, tragedy struck when the 129-foot commercial lift boat, SEACOR Power, capsized 8 miles south of Port Fourchon, Louisiana during incredibly rough weather. There were 18 crew members onboard, 6 of which the Coast Guard has been able to rescue. As of Wednesday, April 14, the search continues; the USCG even requested assistance from local marine operators to help find the missing crew members.
One obvious explanation for the capsizing of the SEACOR Power was due to the thunderstorms rolling through the area. One vessel heading into Port Fourchon clocked weather gusts at around 117 miles per hour, equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane.
As Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lally said, “There was a microburst of weather that came through the area at the time of the incident. I don’t know whether that was the cause, but what we can say is that inclement weather did hit the area at the time.”
However, this is not the first time a lift boat has capsized off of Louisiana’s coast. We would not be surprised if the weather was just one of several contributing factors.
In all likelihood, SEACOR Marine, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and the USCG will all open investigations into what contributed to this fatal accident.
Over the next few months, you can expect SEACOR Marine to “take good care” of the injured mariners by covering their medical expenses, and perhaps even their living expenses. They will likely cover surgeries and physical therapy and send those injured workers to company doctors for their medical care. However, this is their legal obligation to do so. Under Maintenance and Cure laws, SEACOR Marine is required to cover an injured maritime worker’s medical and living expenses until the worker has reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI).
We predict that SEACOR Marine will attempt to minimize their liability and reduce the number of cases filed by offering settlements outside of court. Often companies will offer settlements to victims and families to help “smooth things over.” However, you can count on the company looking after its best interests and so any settlement they offer you will be far less than what you could get in court.
With accidents as disastrous as this one, we guarantee there will be several lawsuits filed within the next year. Many of those lawsuits will be filed as wrongful death cases under the Death on the High Seas Act (DOSHA). There will also be several maritime injury cases filed under the Jones Act.
They will also seek to file a Limitation of Liability claim in court in order to limit its total payout to all crewmembers and their families to the value of the vessel. If they succeed with this Limitation of Liability claim, the victims and their families will not receive all of the settlement money they rightfully deserve. However, there are many ways to avoid the limitation being granted by the court.
As the accident investigations get underway, one question on everyone’s mind will be: could this accident have been prevented? While it’s true that the maritime industry is dangerous, there are regulations and procedures in place to minimize the risk. Since this is not the first time that a lift boat has capsized in Louisiana waters, it stands to reason that there are ongoing problems with lift boats and the way that they are operated. It is our hope investigation findings from this tragic event will help add safety procedures for future lift boat crews.
Companies often place pressure on their crews to work in weather conditions that are wildly unsafe. The SEACOR Power lift boat had left Port Fourchon Tuesday around 2 p.m. The capsizing happened roughly two hours later. It had been evident all day that severe weather was coming through Louisiana. Should the vessel have continued with its departure despite the tumultuous conditions?
On September 8, 2019, the lift boat, Kristin Faye, capsized while preparing to conduct work alongside a platform in the Gulf of Mexico. The NTSB later determined that the cause was “inadequate preload procedures.” Could something similar have happened with the SEACOR Power?
News Articles About the SEACOR Power Lift Boat