PORT FOURCHON, La. (KLFY) — A survivor of the Seacor Power disaster is sharing the most detailed account yet of what happened aboard the sinking ship.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report, 19 men were aboard the lift boat when it capsized. Six people were rescued, six were killed and seven remain missing.
A ten-page lawsuit details the story of Dwayne Lewis who lives in Vermilion Parish. It says he now suffers post-traumatic stress syndrome from his harrowing near-death experience.
Dwayne Lewis remembered jumping out of bed when the Seacor Power began roll from its front to its back. The ceiling and floor became walls as one wall became a floor beneath him. As Lewis looked out his third deck window, his nap had ended, and his real-life nightmare began.
According to Lewis’ lawsuit, when he first arrived at the Bollinger shipyard where the Seacor Power was docked, an orientation meeting left out information he could have used. Locations of emergency exits were not discussed, and life jackets were described briefly as “outside in boxes at a mid-ship location” he claimed.
Thankfully as the liftboat capsized, whoever was staying directly across the hallway climbed into Lewis’ room and determined their best chance of escape was the window. When it refused to budge, both men took turns using a nearby fire extinguisher to shatter the glass.
Lewis and his mate on the vessel donned life jackets that had no light or whistle, and Lewis’ remembered hearing “We need to get out now” before his companion left through the window.
Waves three to four feet below the window sill pushed water in Lewis’ room, but the last thing he wanted to do was jump into the water.
When he was a child, his brother drowned, and Lewis’ parents kept him from water. He couldn’t swim, and though he stayed in his room as long as he could, getting tossed around and bruised, when the water level reached his window, Lewis seized the courage he needed and was sucked outside by a wave.
He thought, “Oh, my God what in the hell is going on here?”
Hanging onto a rope, Lewis saw four or five other men. He couldn’t make out who they were through the 10-12 foot waves splashing in his face, but heard them hollering before his grip slipped, and he drifted for three and half hours.
He was nearly rescued, but the first ship he saw was 50 yards away and rescued someone else then sailed off. The crew of the Mr. Lloyd later found and rescued him.
Lewis’ lawsuit says he fears he will never be able to work offshore again. He is suing the boat manufacturer, owner, and charterer for what happened.