GRAND ISLE, La. (WAFB) - The search continued Friday for 11 people believed to be missing after a 129-foot boat capsized south of Port Fourchon during a strong storm Tuesday afternoon.
U.S. Coast Guard officials told reporters late Wednesday morning crews found one body off the coast and six people have been rescued.
The Lafourche Parish Coroner’s Office has identified the crew member whose body was recovered from the water as David Ledet, 63, of Thibodaux.
A second body was recovered from the Gulf of Mexico Friday, approximately 33 miles from where the Seacor Power capsized Tuesday afternoon, officials confirm. He has been identified as 69-year-old Ernest Williams of Armaudville, LA.
Officials say they are currently searching for the rest of the vessel’s crew despite weather conditions.
A civilian search and rescue organization, Bristow Search and Rescue out of Galliano, had the first helicopter on the scene. They delivered the floatation and radio to the three survivors on board the overturned vessel.
Coast Guard rescue crews have searched more than 1,440 square miles, which is an area larger than the state of Rhode Island, during a combined search period of nearly 40-hours.
“Our rescue crews have been diligently continuing the search and rescue efforts for the missing people from the capsized vessel,” said Capt. Will Watson, commander of Coast Guard Sector New Orleans. “When it comes to search and rescue, each case is dynamic and no single case is the same as the next. Anytime our Coast Guard crews head out for search and rescue, it is always our hope to safely bring those people back and reunite them with their friends and families.”
The Coast Guard is leading the search with crews from as far away as Corpus Christi, Texas. The Coast Guard arrived on the scene within 30 minutes and rescued two victims.
Private boaters in other vessels rescued an additional four victims from the water, the Coast Guard said.
According to marine traffic information, the commercial vessel named Seacor Power left Port Fourchon around noon on Tuesday. Satellite images put their last recorded position several miles from the port around 8:30 p.m. The Coast Guard says they received the distress call around 4:30 p.m. and responded immediately.
Lafourche Parish President Archie Chaisson says there were 18 people in total on the vessel.
Divers knocked on the hull of the vessel Thursday but received no response.
The vessel is a “lift boat” that is generally used to transport workers to oil rigs and platforms. It is owned by Seacor Marine based in Houston.
Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Jonathan Lally says his agency received reports of ‘multiple vessels hit’ during a microburst of weather. At 9 p.m. Tuesday, the Coast Guard reported it had rescued six victims thus far.
“Currently we have multiple Coast Guard assets as well as good samaritan vessels searching for people off of a capsized lift vessel. As of now, we are trying to find out how many people are missing but we are still continuing to search,” Lally said late Tuesday.
“We have multiple Coast Guard assets, we have pre-commissioned Coast Guard cutter on the scene, we have two Coast Guard station Grand Isle 45 foot response boats on scene as well as a Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplane crew from air station Corpus Christi,” Lally said. “The Vessel is about a 175-foot commercial lift vessel and the incident is about 8 miles south of Grand Isle.”
“We don’t have good clarification of exactly how many people we are still searching for and we don’t know the exact cause of the incident but we do know at the time of the report and incident there was inclement weather in the area but the focus is to find the missing people.”
Wind gusts of 75 mph were measured during the storm.
Cutoff, Louisiana resident Simon Bruce posted photos of the intense waves from that area on Facebook.
Bruce said he has never heard so many ‘mayday’ calls at one time in his life.
“I’m on the boat and we doing 4 knots keeping the bow in the wind,” he wrote. ‘Waves are breaking over the bow,” he added.
Bruce mentioned that people fell out of nearby boats. “Please pray for the lost,” he wrote.
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