Good morning and welcome to this public meeting of the National Transportation Safety Board. We’re virtual today due to some technical difficulties with equipment, which is in the process of being replaced. Once that’s done, we’ll return to in-person meetings. Thank you for joining us.
I’m Jennifer Homendy and I’m honored to serve as Chair of the NTSB. Joining us are my colleagues on the Board: Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg, Member Michael Graham, and Member Tom Chapman.
Today we meet in open session as required by the Government in the Sunshine Act to consider the draft report of our investigation into the capsizing of the liftboat Seacor Power, which occurred on April 13, 2021, about 7 miles off the coast of Port Fourchon, Louisiana, in a severe thunderstorm.
Eleven crew and eight offshore workers were aboard the liftboat. Vessel operators in the area reported heavy rain, winds exceeding 80 knots, and 2- to 4-foot seas at the time of the capsizing.
Search and rescue efforts were hampered by 30- to 40-knot winds and seas that quickly built to 10 to 12 feet and persisted throughout the evening and into the next day.
Six personnel were rescued by the United States Coast Guard and Good Samaritan vessels. Six fatally injured personnel were recovered, and seven personnel remain unaccounted for.
On behalf of the NTSB, I’d like to offer our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those impacted by this devastating tragedy. We are truly sorry for your loss. Though we cannot take away your pain, we can promise you this: the NTSB will work vigorously to implement the safety recommendations stemming from this tragedy.
I often say that finalizing the report is just the first step; real safety change comes when our recommendations are implemented. In this case, we’ll talk about one recommendation we’ve issued numerous times that could have aided the search and rescue efforts and, quite possibly, resulted in more survivors.
In a moment, the NTSB investigative team will walk us through the sequence of events in detail surrounding this tragedy.
Each Board Member has studied the draft report and met individually with the investigative team. This is the first time we’ve gathered as a Board to discuss the report.
NTSB staff will present the pertinent facts and analysis and summarize their findings. After their presentations, Board Members will question staff on the key safety issues uncovered during the investigation.
These include gaps in forecasts and communications of weather events, the operation and stability of restricted-service liftboats in severe thunderstorms, the effectiveness of the initial response to the capsizing, and the difficulty in locating survivors in adverse weather and sea conditions.
Staff will then propose the relevant findings, probable cause, and safety recommendations for Board consideration.
Following the incorporation of any amendments voted on today, the final report will be available on our website in a few weeks.
The public docket for this investigation was released on April 27, 2022 and contains over 10,000 pages of additional relevant material. It’s available on our website at NTSB.gov.
Before we begin, I’d like to extend the Board’s gratitude to those who assisted in the search and rescue effort.
This includes the crew of the Rockfish, which was the first vessel to sound the alarm about the emergency, as well as the crews of the Good Samaritan vessels — all of whom responded immediately and searched for hours despite heavy weather: the Miss Allie, and Arata.
The crews of the Good Samaritan vessels Elise Mary, Christian Chouest, Mr. Lloyd, Cape Cod, and the Glen Harris deserve an extra special “thank you” for rescuing five of the six survivors.
In addition, we acknowledge the brave crews of the many other vessels who assisted in the days after this tragedy, whose names we will never know.
I’d also like to thank the Good Samaritans aboard the medical evacuation helicopter from Bristow Helicopters. In addition to being the first aircraft on scene, they deployed rescue swimmers in an attempt to save people from the Seacor Power.
We are grateful to the other government agencies that assisted in the search efforts as well: United States Customs and Border Protection, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Lafourche Parish Marine Unit, and Terrebonne Water Patrol.
I’d also like to thank those who assisted the NTSB investigation with testing the Search and Rescue Transponder: Jotron AS, the Norwegian Safety Investigation Authority, the United States Coast Guard, and the Marine Division of the Washington, D.C., Fire and Emergency Services Department.
Finally, the Board extends its thanks to our colleagues in the Office of Marine Safety and throughout the NTSB for their hard work on this investigation and in putting together this draft report, proposed findings, probable cause, and safety recommendations.
I’ll now ask Deputy Managing Director for Investigations Brian Curtis to introduce members of the NTSB team participating in today’s meeting. Good morning, Mr. Curtis.