The wife of a sailor who was aboard a commercial lift vessel when it capsized in the Gulf of Mexico filed suit in Texas on Wednesday seeking damages in excess of $25 million from the ship’s owners for alleged gross negligence and violations of federal maritime law.
Hannah Daspit is the surviving spouse of Dylan Daspit, who is presumed dead after the commercial lift vessel the Seacor Power capsized on April 13 as it traveled through stormy seas from Port Fourchon, Louisiana to an offshore oil platform.
Of the 19 original crew members, six were rescued alive and 13 were initially unaccounted for. In the hours and days following the disaster, 5 bodies were recovered.
On Monday the Coast Guard called off its an intensive search of over 9,000 square miles in the Gulf of Mexico, but divers continued to search the overturned vessel and found a sixth body on Tuesday, NBC News affiliate WDSU reported.
Seven people remained missing on Thursday.
Scott Daspit, Dylan’s father, who is not a party to the lawsuit but has been conducting his own search and rescue operations, has “real issues with both the Coast Guard, in terms of what happened in the aftermath, and in particular the companies, because they did not seem to have any emergency plan and they did not seem to have a lot of vessels on site,” attorney Frank Spagnoletti said.
“To put this into perspective, about as many people died in this incident as died in Deepwater Horizon,” Spagnoletti said, referring to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil platform disaster, which killed 11 crew members.
The lawsuit, which seeks damages “in excess of” $25 million, alleges violations of the Federal Jones Act, which governs maritime law; and negligence, gross negligence and unseaworthiness.
Scott Daspit has “personally searched the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding shoreline where the vessel was lost, by both air and sea, looking for his son with hope and a prayer,” the suit says.
Hannah Daspit has also “personally searched for her beloved husband Dylan, in the hope of finding him, not only for her, but her two young children who miss their dad,” the suit says. “All this to no avail, and caused by the Defendants herein.”
Seacor Marine did not immediately respond to requests for comment by phone and email.
The suit alleges that when the vessel sailed on April 13, the National Weather Service “was already warning of tropical storm-force winds accompanied by suddenly higher waves in the Gulf.”
“Despite these warnings, the vessel left port to deliver equipment to a nearby platform putting money over safety and the lives of the men on board.”
“The winds quickly increased in speed after the vessel left land. The SEACOR Power took on water and capsized as a result of the poor weather conditions and the conscious decision made by the Defendants to allow the vessel to sail, placing the lives of 19 individuals at risk,” the suit alleges.
Scott Daspit said in an interview that he has continued the search for his son and the six other missing crew members alongside the United Cajun Navy, a floating volunteer rescue force that works in frequently flooded coastal areas
“Please everybody, pray for a miracle,” he said through tears in a Facebook Live video posted just before he took off in a seaplane and scoured the marshes of southern Louisiana on Thursday.
After landing Thursday, Daspit said the Cajun Navy had expanded the search zone, and he and others continued to hold out hope.
“We found the debris fields to the northwest of the actual wreckage — tons of debris from that particular jackup,” Daspit said, adding that search teams went as far as 90 nautical miles to the west and have attempted to search “all the marshlands.”
Daspit said Dylan turned 30 just days before heading out on the voyage.
“He has a 1-year-old son and a 2-year-old son, and they’ll never see their daddy again, and I’m going to miss him,” he said before breaking down in tears. “We are doing everything we can to bring our people back.”