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PHOTOS: Salvage crews remove fuel from Seacor Power

Salvage crews began removing fuel from the Seacor Power, almost three weeks after it capsized in the Gulf of Mexico.

PORT FOURCHON, La. — Salvage crews have begun removing fuel from the Seacor Power vessel that capsized in the Gulf of Mexico on April 13.

The maritime tragedy left 13 people presumably dead. Of the 19-member crew, six were rescued in the first few hours after the disaster, six bodies have been recovered and the other seven are still missing.

Search crews have been looking for the seven missing men for nearly three weeks now, combing the Seacor Power area first and later moving to barrier islands and marshes.

The operation to remove the fuel, the first part of an operation that will presumably remove the Seacor Power from the water, began Monday.

According to the Coast Guard, the salvage crews are using a method called "hot tapping," which allows for drilling into the fuel tanks and making a hose connection without compromising the integrity of the tank or spilling large amounts of fuel into the water.

The Coast Guard said the operation is taking place both above and below the water and that mariners are being kept away from a one-mile perimeter of the area. 

The operations will take place as long as the weather can accommodate the work. 

Petty Officer 1st Class, Nicole Groll of the U.S. Coast Guard 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.   

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