“We’re still looking for others right now,” Petty Officer Jonathan Lally, a spokesman for the Coast Guard, told The Washington Post early on Wednesday.
The vessel was a 129-foot lift boat named Seacor Power, according to Armond Batiste, a spokesman for Seacor Marine, which owns the vessel. Batiste confirmed to The Post that 18 people were onboard when it capsized.
The Coast Guard first got an emergency beacon from the Seacor Power at 4:30 p.m. as the ship foundered about 8 miles off Port Fourchon, a coastal town nearly 100 miles south of New Orleans.
At the time, an unexpectedly fierce storm was lashing the area and wreaking havoc on boats in the Gulf. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported gusts up to 75 miles per hour on Louisiana’s southern coast, Nola.com reported. Boaters in the area described dangerous conditions.
“Ive NEVER Heard soo many MAYDAY calls in my life!” a man named Bruce Simon, who said he was on a boat in the Gulf at the time, posted to Facebook along with images of heavy seas. “Waves are breaking over the bow! A liftboat flipped … An other boats have flipped an are taking on water!”
Sometime after the emergency call, the Seacor Power capsized. The liftboat is designed with a wide, open deck and can raise itself out of the water on stilts to perform maintenance on oil rigs. The Seacor Power could carry up to 12 crew members and 36 passengers, according to its online specifications.
The Coast Guard Cutter Glenn Harris, a 154-foot rescue vessel, scrambled to the scene within half an hour of receiving the emergency beacon, joining multiple good Samaritan boat crews that also answered the call. Coast Guard photos from the scene show the Seacor Power nearly completely submerged in turbulent seas, with just one corner of the boat jutting up from the water.
The Glenn Harris rescued one person from the water, while another Coast Guard crew on a 45-foot boat found another survivor. Four others were saved by good Samaritans, the Coast Guard said.
The Glenn Harris remained on scene to keep searching for survivors overnight along with various Coast Guard helicopters and aircraft, Lally said. Another Coast Guard cutter was also en route to the area to assist.
This is a developing story.