Seacor Power survivor tells story of how he escaped capsized lift boat in new lawsuit

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FILE – In this April 18, 2021 file photo, the capsized lift boat Seacor Power is seen seven miles off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico. Volunteers searching for seven men still missing after the oil industry boat capsized on April 13 said they have found life jackets and other debris from the vessel. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

The lawsuit contains the first retelling of what happened onboard the Seacor Power from a survivor.

PORT FOURCHON, La. (WWL-TV) — One of the six survivors of the Seacor Power capsize shared his story, giving new insight into the deadly event in a federal lawsuit filed against the company.

The survivor who filed the lawsuit, Dwayne Lewis, said he was napping in his room on the port-side of the ship when the severe weather hit.

According to the lawsuit, Lewis woke up around 3:40 p.m. when he felt the lift boat roll over, flipping the entire room onto its side.

A vessel’s mate climbed into his room. The two men were determined to escape and began smashing the window with a fire extinguisher, according to the lawsuit. The glass eventually shattered and both men put on life jackets. 

According to the lawsuit, Lewis noticed that the life jacket didn’t have a light or signaling whistle.

“We need to get out now,” the unnamed mate told Lewis, but Lewis couldn’t swim and was terrified to jump out the window according to the lawsuit. 

Lewis stayed in his room for as long as he could as the storm tossed the boat around, battering and bruising him. The water eventually reached the smashed in window and a wave sucked Lewis out into the Gulf of Mexico, the lawsuit said.

Lewis felt a rope and grabbed it, holding on for his life. He could see about four or five other men, but couldn’t make out who they were. The rope then slipped from his hands and he drifted away from the Seacor Power, the lawsuit said.

Lewis was drifting in the Gulf of Mexico for more than three hours before he was rescued by the crew of the M/V Mr. Lloyd.

The lawsuit claims Seacor acted with “flagrant, reckless disregard for his life and safety” by sending out the lift boat on April 13. It goes on to say that Lewis may never work in the Gulf again because of the post-traumatic stress he suffers after his near-death experience.

Lewis’ lawsuit is the latest of several filed against Seacor over the tragic capsizing of the Seacor Power.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report, 19 people were on board the Seacor Power when it left Port Fourchon at about 1:30 in the afternoon April 13. Nine of them were crew members, two were gallery staff and eight were offshore workers. The liftboat was headed to an oil rig East of the Mississippi Delta.

At 7:02 a.m., a weather report was emailed to the liftboat forecasting afternoon winds of 10-to-14 miles per hour and 3-foot seas. At about 3:30 p.m., a storm began to pass over while the liftboat was on open waters.

Other boats in the area reported heavy rain, high seas, and winds up to 92 miles per hour during the storm.

According to the report, because of low visibility and high winds, crew members started to lower the boats legs to stabilize it. At the same time, a crew member attempted to turn the lift boat to face the wind.  

In the process, the lift boat was overcome by the storm and capsized. Several people were able to escape through the part of the lift boat that stayed above water, creating a search and rescue operation from the U.S. Coast Guard and civilians. 

Six people were rescued, six were killed and seven remain missing.

Lewis’ lawsuit names Seacor and the boat’s maker, Semco, as defendants.

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