GRAND ISLE, La. (AP) — The Coast Guard kept searching for 12 people missing off the coast of Louisiana on Wednesday, hours after six other crew members were pulled from rough seas following the capsizing of their commercial platform vessel during a “microburst” of bad weather.
The U.S. Coast Guard Heartland said in a statement that it was among several vessels responding to an area of the Gulf of Mexico south of Port Fourchon after the 129-foot (39-meter) Seacor Power overturned. A search plane also flew in to assist.
Lafourche Parish President Archie Chaisson III confirmed that 18 people were on board before the vessel took on water in rough seas.
“The hope is that we can bring the other 12 home alive,” Chaisson said by phone Wednesday morning as he traveled to Port Fourchon, where he said families of the crew members had begun to gather last night, seeking any information they could.
“We continue to pray for the 18 men who were on that vessel as well as their families,” Chaisson said. The vessel’s manifest described 18 crew members on board, he added.
The search was ongoing by sea and from the air, Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lally said.
“There was a microburst of weather that came through the area at the time of the incident,” Lally said. “I don’t know whether that was the cause, but what we can say is that inclement weather did hit the area at the time.”
A special marine warning issued by the National Weather Service in New Orleans said steep waves and winds greater than 50 knots (58 mph) were expected in parts of the Gulf of Mexico south of Louisiana on Tuesday.
The Seacor Power is a commercial lift vessel, designed to become an offshore platform by dropping three towering legs down to the sea floor. Hit by the storm, it flipped over, with one of the legs pointed awkwardly skyward as rescuers searched for the workers in rough seas.
Port Fourchon, Louisiana’s southernmost seaport, is a major base for the U.S. oil and gas industry, supporting most of Louisiana’s offshore platforms and drilling rigs.
New Orleans and areas off Louisiana’s shore were being hit by an unexpectedly strong storm that overturned vessels and damaged property, particularly in coastal towns. The Coast Guard warned in a Facebook post that the storms caused “significant hazards to life and property.”
The length of the capsized vessel has been corrected; it has a beam of 129 feet, not 265 feet.