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Missing crew members loom over Seacor Power salvage operations

“Everyone wants to bring closure to the families and although there’s not a regulation for it, everybody knows that’s a part of the mission."

LAFOURCHE PARISH, La. — The weather over the next few days will have a big impact on the operation to salvage the wreckage of the Seacor Power. 

That lift boat capsized south of Port Fourchon roughly three weeks ago during a wave of severe weather.  Since then, for we’ve only seen one corner of the Seacor power peeking above the water.  In the aftermath, six crew members were rescued, six others were killed and seven are still missing. 

A similar lift boat, called the Seacor Eagle, is now near the site.   

“Over the weekend we had Seacor Eagle go out and set up, as well as divers being out there to start training on the equipment to actually start pulling the fuel off the Seacor Power,” said Petty Officer 1st Class, Nicole Groll of the U.S. Coast Guard. 

Groll says removing the fuel from the Seacor Power is the first step in what’s now a salvage operation.  Once that’s done, work can begin to cut or dismantle the massive lift boat.  It’s 234-feet long, almost the length of a football field.  So much of the operation will depend on the weather. 

“100%, the weather is our biggest challenge.  We need good weather in order to safely remove the fuel,” Groll said.   

Timothy Couvillion of the marine contractor, the Couvillion group, says the weather is just one factor divers will have to consider.  Couvillion’s company has experience in many marine operations, including ones that involved divers.  Couvillion says the current salvage operations is relatively safe, but it does have a unique dimension. 

“This is a rig that is flipped.  It’s inverted or upside down.  It looks a lot like it’s not supposed to. With that being said, there’s going to be a lot of equipment, there are going to be a lot of things that are displaced or out of place,” Couvillion said.   

While the focus of this operation is to salvage what’s left of the Seacor power, there is a plan in place if divers or workers come across any of the seven missing crew members.

“If we find any missing crew members, all operations will stop.  We’ll notify the proper authorities, and the missing crew member will be brought back to shore.  After that we’ll assess how operations should move forward,” Groll said.

Timothy Couvillion says considering the trauma the families of the crew members have experienced, the fact that those men are still missing will no doubt be front of mind for anyone involved in the salvage operation.

“Everyone wants to bring closure to the families and although there’s not a regulation for it, everybody knows that’s a part of the mission,” Couvillion said.

It’s a mission that becomes even more sobering with every passing day.  The Coast Guard says it does not have a timeline on when the salvage operation will be completed.  Couvillion says depending on many factors at the site, including the weather, the operation could last as long as 90 days.