Seacor First Mate testifies on ill-fated efforts to save the liftboat
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -The first mate of the Seacor Power lift boat says he was at the helm when a fatal April storm first hit.
Brian Mires says he was attempting to turn the lift boat into the wind and stabilize the vessel, prior to its capsizing. Mires is a 17-year lift boat veteran and, as first mate of the Seacor Power, had a lot of authority over vessel operations along with ship’s Captain Dave Ledet.
“We had thunderstorms and, before we left, Dave pulled me in the office. The forecast called for 2 to 4-foot seas with 10 to 15 winds,” said Mires.
But on April 13, 6 miles south of the dock, conditions grew much worse.
Mires testified at a Coast Guard-NTSB hearing that they were hit by a squall from behind, which packed 79 mph winds when the decision was made to lower the lift boat’s massive 250-foot long support legs, in a stabilizing maneuver called a ‘soft tag’.
“I suggested we soft tag the boat and he said ‘okay’. I took off the clutch on the inboard,” said Mires.
Mires told a panel of eight investigators that as he lowered the legs and tried to turn into the wind he noticed the boat had developed a 5-degree list to its starboard, or right side, as the galley began taking on water. He then says he told Capt. Ledet that the Seacor Power was going over.
‘”Dave got at the helm and tried to steer her into it. I was going to port. He went to starboard. We continued jacking. I realized we weren’t going to correct it so I hit the tilt alarm,” testified Mires.
At that point, Mires says the boat capsized and he grabbed a life jacket. The first one didn’t work but the second one did, and he yelled for help.
“I kept seeing if Dave would come up and hollered for anybody outside and nobody answered,” said Mires.
Eventually Mires was rescued by another vessel, The Cape Cod, which he says was never able to pick up a radio signal on his handheld transmitter device.
“It was on but their radar never went off,” said Mires.
Mires says he stayed on board the Cape Cod as they searched through the night after a tragedy in which six people died, seven others remain missing and are presumed dead.
Coast Guard systems specialist Edwin Thiedeman also testified Tuesday, about the reliability of handheld transmitters used to locate overboard crewmembers. He says their signals could sometimes be interrupted by heavy weather. First mate Mires testified his signal was not picked up by the rescue boat ‘Cape Cod.’
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