Search efforts continue after a catastrophic capsize in the Gulf of Mexico, which has now been declared a “major marine accident”.
The Seacor Power, a 129-foot commercial vessel, was overturned in the middle of a severe storm Tuesday with 19 people on board, although authorities have still not confirmed whether the weather conditions had caused the tragedy.
Six crew members were first rescued in open water and one person was found dead the next day. The families of the remaining 12 crew members are still awaiting news from their loved ones.
“As search efforts for the crew continue, the incident has been declared a major marine accident,” the Coast Guard said in a press release. This service branch “is conducting a preliminary investigation and the National Transportation Safety Board will join this effort.”
David Ledet was identified on Thursday as the person found unresponsive on the surface of the water, the Lafourche coroner confirmed to NBC News. Ledet was the ship’s captain, according to Nola.com. A former crew member shared on social media that Ledet had over 15 years of experience.
A dive team is expected to go out on Thursday in search of the remaining crew members.
The Coast Guard could not confirm to NBC News whether or not a dive team had started diving based on weather conditions and an initial assessment.
The Coast Guard said reports of communications between emergency responders and crew members potentially on board in the “air pockets” of the Seacor Power are unfounded.
“I’m scared and devastated and broken,” Darra Morales, whose son was on the ship, told NBC News. “I just want my son to come home with his kids.”
Morales’s son is Chaz Morales, 37, a father of three, who she says is a crane operator for Seacor Power.
“He shouldn’t have left,” said Marion Cuyler, Chaz’s fiancé. “That’s what everyone says. Why did he leave? Who gave the order for this boat to leave in this type of weather? Strong winds, he shouldn’t have left.
Cuyler said Chaz had worked as a crane operator for almost 20 years. The couple texted all day and shared how the weather had gotten worse.
“They knew the weather was bad, obviously it was bad here that day,” Cuyler said.
Chett Chiasson, the executive director of Port Fourchon, said: “No one could have predicted 110 mph winds on our way when there is no hurricane in the Gulf.”
Chiasson described the maritime community here as “brothers,” and when a wave of Mayday calls arrived on Tuesday afternoon, he said it was no surprise that private boats and Good Samaritans rushed in. to help, ultimately leading to the rescue of several stranded crew members. .
As for the ongoing search and rescue efforts, “Coast Guard air and surface assets continued to search overnight, and searches will continue throughout the day,” the branch said. .
Coast Guard teams searched for 70 combined hours covering approximately 6,380 square miles, “an area about the size of Hawaii,” according to the Coast Guard’s latest press release.
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch in effect until Saturday morning for parts of southeast Louisiana, making conditions difficult for rescue teams.
Seacor did not respond to multiple requests for comment from NBC News.