Second Body Identified From Capsized Boat in Gulf of Mexico

Rescuers are still hopeful of finding 11 missing crew members in air pockets inside the mostly submerged commercial boat that capsized this week, even as a second body was discovered.

Lafourche Parish deputies patrol along the shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico, not far from where a lift boat capsized during a storm this week, on Elmer’s Island, La., on Thursday, April 15. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

GRAND ISLE, La. (CN) — The body of a fifth crew member aboard the Seacor Power lift boat was found Sunday night, according to the man’s relatives, bringing the number of missing to eight.

The missing man’s relative posted about the finding on Facebook late Sunday, and another relative confirmed the news to WGNO-TV, a local affiliate of ABC, according to a report from the Times-Picayune, but authorities have not yet released a name.

A third and fourth body found late Friday inside the capsized boat were identified Saturday by the Lafourche Parish Coroner.

Anthony Hartford, 53, of New Orleans, a longtime chef aboard the boat, and James Wallingsford, 55, of Gilbert, a village in northeastern Louisiana, were found inside the vessel’s engine room. The cause of death for both men remained under investigation Saturday, according to the coroner, Dr. John King. 

The men were found inside the port-side engine room of the boat, which had flipped onto its starboard side.

Hartford and Wallingsford are among four whose bodies have been found since the Tuesday capsize of the lift boat with 19 aboard.

Rescuers continued researching the wreckage Friday evening, still hopeful of finding passengers alive.

The body of 68-year-old Ernest Williams of Arnaudville, Louisiana, was recovered Thursday night near Cocodrie, Louisiana, west of the site where the Seacor Power overturned on Tuesday.  

The identity of the first body found late Tuesday – Captain David Ledet, 68, from Thibodeaux, Louisiana – was released on Thursday. As with Williams, Ledet’s body was found floating in the Gulf of Mexico.

A Coast Guard crew member searches for survivors near the capsized Seacor Power. (U.S. Coast Guard via AP)

Six crew members were rescued in the hours after the boat turned onto its side and partially sank. Rescuers still held onto hope Saturday the remaining 9 are alive, surviving within air pockets inside the vessel.

The fiancé of one of the missing crew members told the Times-Picayune Thursday that she had reason to believe the remaining crew members are inside the boat. She said she had been told directly by one of the six people who were rescued that the remaining passengers — all contractors and staff — were on board.

“The guy who got rescued said they are in there — all 12 should be in their rooms waiting to be rescued,” Marion Cuyler, the fiancé of missing crew member Chaz Morales, said, speaking outside of a Port Fourchon firehouse where she and others received a briefing from authorities about search efforts.

The massive lift boat was of a type used by the oil and gas industry to create offshore platforms. Boats like the Seacor Power are not well equipped for the hurricane force winds that took the region by surprise Tuesday afternoon.

The vessel left dock early in the day Tuesday headed for Main Pass 138 about 40 miles east of Venice, Louisiana, during relatively calm weather.

Three hours later, around 1:30 p.m., forecasters warned of the potential for tropical storm winds and deadly waves. The Seacor Power turned back toward Grand Isle but took on water and rolled onto its side before getting there, becoming mostly submerged in water.

On Tuesday night, U.S. Coast Guard rescuers found five crew members on the hull of the boat. Two jumped from the hull into the water where they were saved, while another two were provided with life jackets and radios and went back into the vessel. Worsening storm conditions at the time prevented further rescue, according to a report from the Times-Picayune.

The fifth crewmember jumped into water and was lost from sight. Without naming Williams directly, a Coast Guard official said the man was spotted by a helicopter Thursday night near the wreckage of the Seacor Power. He was transported by a Coast Guard vessel to Grand Isle and pronounced dead.

Part of the overturned vessel’s hull and one of its legs were still visible, according to a Coast Guard report. Most of the vessel was underwater in an area 55-60 feet deep.

Rescuers have not heard from the pair on the hull who went back into the vessel since Tuesday night. The Coast Guard hopes there may still be survivors aboard the boat.

On Thursday, rescuers knocked on the hull of the wrecked ship with a hammer and received no answer, according to an evening update from the Coast Guard that said they planned to return to the site Friday and search for survivors inside.

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