On Thursday, September 8, 2011, about 1225 central daylight time, the 78.5-foot-long liftboat Trinity II, while elevated and at work about 15 miles offshore in the Bay of Campeche, Gulf of Mexico, sustained damage to its stern jacking leg from severe weather associated with Hurricane Nate. Four US crewmembers and six non-US contractors were on board the vessel. When the stern jacking leg failed, causing the vessel to list, the master placed a mayday call over the radio and ordered everyone on board to abandon ship. All 10 persons, wearing lifejackets, entered the water where they clung to one of the vessel’s 12-person lifefloats. Three days passed until search and rescuers located nine of the personnel. Two of them were dead by that time, and a third would die later at the hospital. Four days after finding the nine personnel, responders recovered the body of the 10th person. The six survivors sustained serious injuries. The estimated damage to the Trinity II was $1.5 million.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determines that the probable cause of the accident was the failure of Trinity Liftboats (the vessel owner/operator) and Geokinetics (the chartering organization) to adequately plan for the risks associated with a rapidly developing surface low pressure weather system, which ultimately subjected the elevated liftboat to hurricane-force conditions, causing the stern jacking leg to fail and the onboard personnel to abandon the vessel. Contributing to the injuries and fatalities was the failure of the Trinity II crewmembers to make effective use of the vessel’s available lifesaving equipment, resulting in the personnel’s prolonged exposure to the elements while awaiting rescue.