HOUMA, La. (AP) — A public hearing into the deadly capsizing of the Seacor Power lift boat off the coast of Louisiana has ended.
The two-week U.S. Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation hearing concluded Friday with testimony from two survivors, family of the victims and Coast Guard personnel who worked the day the boat flipped last April. In total, 31 witnesses testified. The board heard detailed timelines of the weather conditions and of marine warnings. They examined the evidence and asked witnesses if the crew was warned, when, and how.
The investigation may result in recommendations on how to prevent similar accidents and could determine if anyone committed misconduct or failed to perform their duties, said Coast Guard Capt. Tracy Phillips, the presiding officer. A report will be available to the public but is not expected for months.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which also is investigating, plans to release its own findings on the cause of the tragedy.
On Friday, Phillips said the issue of safety regulations was a major part of their findings.
“What we’re looking for is if there are aspects of the regulation that we need to go back and take another look at and see if they are in fact where they need to be or if there need to be some changes to make them safer,” Phillips said.
Amanda Walcott Harris, whose brother Gregory Walcott was a chef on the boat, said she and her family just want answers, WDSU-TV reported.
“It’s really devastating not to know where he is, you know what became of him,” said Walcott of her brother. “It’s been four months, and still nothing. It’s really devastating.”
The Coast Guard is not taking what happened lightly and is doing all that it can to find out what went wrong, Phillips said.
“I’m not sure anything I could say would give the family closure, but like I said in the hearing, our board is absolutely committed to finding out exactly what happened in this accident and really finding out what we can do to make enhancements to safety and prevent this from happening in the future,” she said.
Walcott was among the 19 crewmen aboard the Seacor Power when it capsized about seven miles (11 kilometers) off the Louisiana coast. Only six people on board survived.
The Coast Guard said more hearings will be held if new witnesses come forward with new information.
“I do believe we have enough substantial information to conduct our report,” Phillips said.
Phillips’ comments gave the victims’ families hope, especially the Walcott family, who said Gregory Walcott’s body has still not been recovered.
“I just want to make sure they find out what caused this boat to capsize so that nobody else will have to go through this,” Amanda Walcott said.
Many of the victims’ families have filed lawsuits, which are pending.
The end of the hearing nearly brought Phillips to tears, WWL-TV reported.
“Our investigation can’t change the outcome of this tragic event, but our team is determined to examine every aspect of the incident, push for any needed changes to enhance maritime safety, and prevent similar casualties from occurring in the future,” she said.
Phillips also thanked those who testified, the NTSB, and all who had a role in making the hearings happen.
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