The Coast Guard is currently combing the waters off the Louisiana coast in search of 12 people who are missing after the boat they were on capsized Tuesday because of hurricane-force winds, the Associated Press reports.
19 people were on the craft at the time. Six survivors have been pulled from the rough seas. One crew member was reported dead.
Coast Guard Captain Will Watson reported the conditions at the time the Seacor Power overturned, saying winds were between 80 and 90 miles per hour, and that the seas were seven to nine feet high. He added that that environment is “challenging under any circumstance.”
The AP reports that the boat flipped on Tuesday afternoon miles from the state’s southernmost seaport, Port Fourchon. The 129-foot-long vessel had three legs that could touch down on the sea floor to convert it into an offshore platform. Video of the attempted rescue showed the boat, at one point, with a leg pointed up towards the sky as searchers continued to look for the missing.
At a Wednesday news conference, Watson said one crew member was found dead on the water’s surface. He was asked about the prospects of finding those still unaccounted for, and responded by saying, “We are hopeful. We can’t do this work if you’re not optimistic, if you’re not hopeful.”
It was stated on Tuesday that performing the search quickly was a priority. That opinion was expressed by Lafourche Parish President Archie Chaisson III, as he relayed that there was the “potential for some rough weather” in the near future. By Wednesday conditions had improved dramatically.
The search for the crew was made up of four Coast Guard vessels, four private boats, a Coast Guard plane, and a Coast Guard helicopter.
Chaisson added that missing crew members’ relatives have rushed to the port in an effort to get any information they could. NBC News also writes that rescuers believe survivors could be trapped in air pockets within the vessel.
“We continue to pray for the … men who were on that vessel as well as their families,” added Chaisson.
An emergency distress signal was received by the Coast Guard at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday. The service then sent out an urgent marine broadcast that was responded to by multiple private boats. Those efforts led to four crew members being saved. Two more crew members were later found by Coast Guard rescuers.
A local shrimper, Capt. Ronald Dufrene, reported how unfavorable Tuesday’s conditions were. Other vessels in the area were reported as being overturned, and property was damaged along the coastline.
“People who have been fishing 30, 40 years — the first time they put their life jackets on was yesterday. … I know three boats for sure said that,” said Dufrene to the AP.