Seacor Power owners explain why it took days before divers checked for survivors

Louisiana

HOUMA, La. (KLFY) — The chief and local safety officers for Seacor Marine and the company’s general manager for the Gulf of Mexico were called as a witness under oath in Wednesday’s Coast Guard hearing on the Seacor Power disaster.

Joey Ruiz, Seacor Marine General Manager in the Gulf of Mexico, had difficulty at times reply, visibly choking up recalling memories from April 13. He stated when he first heard the Seacor Power had capsized from a friend who worked for a nearby liftboat company, his response was, “No way.”

Almost immediately, every company executive was on a conference call trying to get boots on the ground. The diving and salvage company, Don Jon SMIT, didn’t wait for a call, they initiated one according to Michael Cenac, Seacor Marine’s Designated Person Ashore (DPA).

Cenac asked what total assistance divers could provide and stated, “His initial report back is that they could be there at midnight with a six-man dive team, divemaster, and assistant.”

The first ship offered to divers that night was from Talos Energy, but it was not accepted by the diving supervisor because the vessel didn’t have two ways to ensure it could maintain a position without anchoring. It only had one.

A second acceptable ship was acquired the next morning, but Cenac said the lost time didn’t impact the rescue because weather conditions were still too rough.

“Even if you would have had a dive plan approved the moment it happened, the weather conditions would not have allowed them to dive,” Cenac explained.

Seacor Marine representatives stated high seas prevented any divers from going into the vessel until two days after it capsized. On April 15, divers heard no response banging on the hull. Eventually, deceased crewmen were found aboard.

Ruiz said divers’ heroics too often go thankless. He stated, “It was a difficult job. Just talking to those guys, low visibility, everything was done by touch. Very difficult. Very dangerous.”

The first Seacor personnel asked if the Seacor Power was in distress was manning the Seacor dispatch center, and earlier Coast Guard testimony in the first week of hearings claimed dispatch initially answered the liftboat was at dock in Port Fourchon.

When asked if dispatchers had the ability to know where vessels are Ruiz answered,”They may have that ability, but that isn’t their responsibility.”

Ruiz went on to say a dispatcher should direct those calls to the safety department which they did. With Wednesday witnesses released, testimony from the boat owners has concluded. Thursday, representatives from the client who chartered the final voyage, Talos Energy, will testify.

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