CUT OFF, La. – The U.S. Coast Guard said it will suspend the search for crew members who disappeared when a lift boat capsized off Louisiana last week at sunset Monday, and authorities do not expect to find more survivors from the vessel.
The grim news from Capt. Will Watson, commander of the Coast Guard Sector New Orleans, comes after days of searching for the missing workers from the oil industry lift boat Seacor Power, which capsized Tuesday during a fierce storm in the Gulf of Mexico about eight miles (13 kilometers) south of Port Fourchon. Six of the 19 workers on the boat were rescued within hours of the wreck; five more bodies were found in the water or on board the vessel in the days since then. Eight remain missing.
Watson said officials had just come from briefing the families on the news.
“There was a lot of hugging and a lot of crying. There was a lot of sadness and grief," he said.
The president of the Seacor Marine, which owns the boat, said during the news conference that divers from a company they have contracted with will continue to search the entire vessel. John Gellert said they are about halfway through the vessel as of midday Monday. Gellert also said that divers from a company Seacor contracts with were on the scene four hours after the ship capsized.
“We are steadfast in our efforts to return those who remain missing," Gellert said. But he added that efforts will depend on the weather, not just on the surface but below the surface. "The currents are currently very strong. That will determine diving windows. When we are able to dive we will dive continuously.”
Families who have been waiting for days for any news of their loved ones were already preparing for the worst earlier Monday. Arlana Saddler, the youngest sister of missing worker Gregory Walcott, told the AP earlier that she was trying to be realistic about her brother's chances of survival.
“I’m being real. This is the seventh day, and even if they made it through the boat turning over and all that, there’s no food, no water. You’re talking seven days," she said.