Families and friends waited for word on their loved ones Thursday as rescue boats and aircraft combed a swath of the Gulf of Mexico the size of Rhode Island in search of 12 people missing from a commercial boat that capsized two days ago in stormy seas off Louisiana.
Six people were rescued Tuesday from the 129-foot liftboat Power Secor, also known as a jackup rig for the retractable legs used to raise the deck above the water for mineral exploration and construction. One body was recovered Wednesday.
The boat flipped over in heavy winds and raging seas south of Port Fourchon, a major base for the U.S. oil and gas industry. Winds were whipping at up to 90 mph, and wave reached 9 feet.
“Today, weather permitting, we anticipate divers making it to the vessel,” U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Third Class John Michelli said early Thursday. Some family members cling to hope their loved ones will be found trapped in air pockets.
Marion Cuyler, the fiancée of crane operator Chaz Morales, said she spoke to him shortly before the tragedy.
“He said they were jacking down and they were about to head out, and I’m like, the weather is too bad. You need to come home,” she said. “And he’s like, I wish I could.”
‘Pray for the lost’: Body found, 12 missing after boat capsizes in stormy seas
The family of Gregory Walcott, 62, told KATC-TV that he was on the boat. The family has heard nothing about his fate. Walcott has worked on the rigs for two decades, his niece said.
“We don’t have any words. It’s just … it’s like a bomb just exploded without any notice,” his niece, Crystle Randle, told the TV station. “We’re all just in a state of shock right now. We’re just staying in good faith that he will be found alive.”
Family members of Dylan Daspit told KATC he, too, was on the boat.
“Everyone pray for a miracle,” said his wife, Hannah Coleman Daspit. “He needs to come home to his family. We can’t live without him.”
Capt. Will Watson, commander of Coast Guard Sector New Orleans, was unwilling to give up hope that survivors would be found after more than 40 hours of searching late Wednesday. The massive effort over 1,440 square miles included more than a dozen authorized search boats and “good Samaritan” boats, five airplanes and three helicopters.
“When it comes to search and rescue, each case is dynamic and no single case is the same as the next,” he said late Wednesday. “It is always our hope to safely bring those people back and reunite them with their friends and families.”
The Coast Guard issued an urgent marine information broadcast Tuesday after being alerted that the boat was in distress. The cutter Glenn Harris, a 154-foot rescue ship, arrived on the scene within 30 minutes and pulled one person from the capsized vessel, the agency said. Another Coast Guard boat rescued one man, and boaters in the area pulled four more to safety.
Seacor Marine, which owned the boat, released a statement saying it was working with the Coast Guard and local authorities to locate “our valued team members and partners.”
“We would like to thank the U.S. Coast Guard and Good Samaritan vessels for their immediate response as well as the brave individuals who have further supported our search and rescue efforts,” the statement said. “Our hearts and prayers go out to everyone involved.”
Cuyler was unmoved.
“I mean, they shouldn’t have gone out,” she said. “There’s no way. They should have waited at least 12 hours.”
Contributing: The Associated Press