A vessel with 19 people on board flipped along coastal Louisiana during an unexpected storm with hurricane-force winds.
GRAND ISLE, La. (CN) – Six people have been rescued, one is dead and another 12 are still missing after a commercial boat capsized Tuesday off Louisiana’s Port Fourchon in the Gulf of Mexico during bad weather, according to the U.S. Coast Guard and local officials.
SEACOR Marine who operates the massive vessel said there were 19 people aboard the boat at the time it capsized. Official estimates initially said 18 people were on board.
One person was found dead in the water, six others were rescued and 12 remain missing, Captain Will Watson from U.S. Coast Guard New Orleans said during a press conference Wednesday.
The massive, 190-foot commercial lift boat capsized about 7 miles south of Port Fourchon Tuesday afternoon. The ship was initially identified by the Coast Guard as being 129 feet.
“What we know of the weather conditions at the time, we had 80 to 90 mph winds and 7 to 9 foot seas,” Watson said. “That’s challenging under any circumstance. We don’t know the degree to which that contributed to what happened, but what we do know is that those are challenging conditions to be out in in a maritime environment.”
Parish officials on Wednesday morning called for all marine operators to assist with the search for missing passengers.
The lift boat, named the Seacor Power, took on water around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday and turned onto its side amid hurricane-force winds that took the New Orleans metro area by surprise. The storm overturned vessels and damaged property across the region, particularly along coastal Louisiana.
Coast Guard officials, volunteers from the region and a search plane from Texas combed the area surrounding the boat looking for passengers Tuesday evening and into Wednesday morning. So far, six people have been rescued.
A Cut Off, Louisiana, resident named Simon Bruce posted live on Facebook Tuesday afternoon from his boat near the Seacor Power. He said he had never heard so many calls for help.
“I’ve never heard so many mayday calls in my life!” Bruce’s post said. “Im on the boat an we doing 4 knots keeping the bow in the wind. Waves are breaking over the bow! A liftboat flipped.”
It continued, “A 295 class the Seacor Power 18 people on board they only found 4 people so far. An other boats have flipped an are taking on water! 10 footers with occasional 15 footers! Please pray for the lost!”
The search continued Thursday morning for the remaining 12 people.
The Seacor Power left Port Fourchon around noon Tuesday, according to marine traffic information. Many vessel operators at the dock in Grand Isle were not expecting the severe weather.
“We knew there was some weather coming, but it’s just a little white storm. A regular thing in the Gulf,” Bruce told WAFB9. “Next thing you know, I was sleeping in bed, I woke up because I was coming out of my bed, I was hitting the top of my bunk. I was like, ‘what in the world?’”
The storm whipped through the area and left Grand Isle without water and electricity. The island’s backup generators were also damaged by the storm, according to a report by the Times Picayune newspaper.