On Tuesday afternoon, April 13, 2021, at around 4:30 pm the United States Coast Guard received notification that an estimated 175-foot ship capsized 8 miles south of Grand Isle, Louisiana. According to multiple reports, there were 19 people on board the ship, which has been described as a Seacor Power commercial lift vessel. These kinds of ships are generally used in the oil & gas industry for moving equipment to and maintaining offshore oil rigs. On information and belief, the ship is owned by a company based out of Houston, Texas.
According to a news release on Tuesday afternoon by the United States Coast Guard, the coast guard and other “good Samaritan” vessels rescued six people from the capsized ship. Some of the rescue crews involved in the search are:
- Coast Guard Cutter Glenn Harris crew
- Coast Guard Cutter Amberjack crew
- Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew
- Coast Guard Station Grand Isle 45-foot RB-M boat crews
- Coast Guard Air Station Corpus Christi HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplane crews
- Two Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplanes crews
- Two Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater HC-130 Hercules airplane crews
- Two Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters
- Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries crews
- Port Fourchon Harbor Patrol
- Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office
- Seven good Samaritan vessels
- One commercial air medical service crew
Just two hours before the incident, a local weather report released information stating that the Grand Isle and Greater New Orleans region had sustained a significant blow from a major thunderstorm. Per the report, thousands were left without power “after thunderstorms brought heavy rain and winds to Southeast Louisiana.” Further, “Grand Isle was hard hit with power out to all or much of the island and schools closed Wednesday.” In nearby St. Charles Parish, school students remained inside of the school buildings due to the dangers posed by the storm. These significant storms are predicted to last through Wednesday.
While the cause of the capsize is still being investigated, it is believed that a weather phenomenon known as a “wake low”—which actually resulted in 70 to 80 mph winds—was one contributing factor in that it created rough seas which are conducive to capsizing. One report described wind gusts reaching speeds as high as 117mph and creating very choppy conditions in the Gulf of Mexico. According to a local meteorologist Benjamin Scott, the wake low was “spun off from a complex of thunderstorms that moved through southeastern, Louisiana.” In addition to the severe weather, another factor believed to have contributed to the capsizing of the ship was the poor decision to send crews out to work when such severe conditions were already known.
Morrow & Sheppard LLP will continue to provide updates as more information is provided from the United States Coast Guard and other local authorities responding to this tragic event.