GRAND ISLE, La. – Coast Guard boats and aircraft have covered an area larger than the state of Rhode Island to search for 12 people still missing Wednesday off the Louisiana coast after their offshore oilfield vessel capsized in hurricane-force winds.
One worker's body was recovered Wednesday and six people were rescued Tuesday after the Seacor Power overturned Tuesday afternoon in the Gulf of Mexico, the Coast Guard said.
The search, interrupted by darkness and bad weather, has totaled nearly 40 hours and more than 1,440 square miles (3,730 square kilometers) of Gulf waters by Wednesday afternoon, according to a news release. The hunt for the missing continued into the evening, said Petty Officer Carlos Galarza.
Coast Guard Capt. Will Watson said earlier that winds were 80 to 90 mph (130 to 145 kph) and waves rose 7 to 9 feet high (2.1 to 2.7 meters) when the lift boat overturned.
“That’s challenging under any circumstance,” Watson said. “We don’t know the degree to which that contributed to what happened, but we do know those are challenging conditions to be out in the maritime environment.”
The bulky vessel, also called a jackup rig because it has three long legs it can lower to the sea floor to lift the boat out of the water as an offshore platform, flipped over Tuesday afternoon south of Port Fourchon, a major base for the U.S. oil and gas industry.
One worker was found dead on the surface of the water, Watson said at a news conference Wednesday. Asked about the missing workers' prospects, he said, “We are hopeful. We can’t do this work if you’re not optimistic, if you’re not hopeful.”
Divers were heading to the local area Wednesday afternoon, Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer John Micheli said.