NTSB Issues Recommendations Following Four Deaths in 2011 TRINITY II Accident

This Latin America News video shows footage from the  rescue of seven individuals who had to abandon the 78 ½-foot long liftboat TRINITY II about 15 miles offshore in the Bay of Campeche, Gulf of Mexico, on September 8, 2011. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), four US crewmembers and six non-US contractors had to abandon ship after the vessel sustained damage to its stern jacking leg from severe weather associated with Hurricane Nate. All 10 individuals were wearing lifejackets when they entered the water and clung to one of the vessel’s 12-person lifefloats. Three days passed until search and rescuers located nine of the personnel, two of whom were dead by that time and a third who died later at the hospital. Four days after the nine personnel were located, responders discovered the body of the 10th individual. According to the NTSB, all six survivors sustained serious injuries.

On April 9, the NTSB met to consider the findings of its accident investigation report. The agency determined that the probable cause of the accident was the failure of the vessel’s owner/operator, Trinity Liftboats, and the chartering organization, Geokinetics, to adequately plan for the risks associated with a rapidly developing surface low pressure weather system. This ultimately subjected the elevated liftboat to hurricane-force conditions, causing the stern jacking leg to fail.

The Importance of Emergency Preparedness and Planning

In its executive summary, the NTSB identified two safety issues in the TRINITY II accident:

  • Inadequate weather preparedness — While both Trinity Liftboats and Geokinetics had company hurricane plans in place, the NTSB said neither plan addressed the risk posed by locally forming weather systems. The agency concluded that the plans assumed weather systems affecting the area of operation would provide a few days’ advance warning, but “the company hurricane plans were never activated, and the personnel on board the TRINITY II had minimal advance warning to prepare.”
  • Improper use of available lifesaving equipment — The NTSB reported two inflatable liferafts were recently installed on the TRINITY II. While four crewmembers completed training in operation of lifesaving equipment, they inflated the first of the two liferafts on deck instead of throwing the canister containing the  liferaft into the water—which was “the proper method and was clearly illustrated in the  launching instructions posted where the liferafts were stowed.” This caused the liferaft to blow away from the deck in the hurricane-force winds and vanish in the rough seas, and the second liferaft was also lost in the high winds. The agency concluded that the personnel ultimately ended up “having to cling to a lifefloat, which, unlike the liferafts, did not provide out-of-water  flotation, shelter from the elements, and food and water.” Additionally, the NTSB also found that crewmembers failed to take an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) from the TRINITY II with them, and the device “would have enabled search and rescuers to narrow the search area and reduce the time the men had to spend in the water.”

The NTSB listed 10 conclusions it drew from the accident as well as recommendations the agency made to the US Coast Guard, the US Department of State, Trinity Liftboats, Geokinetics and the Offshore Marine Service Association. The entire synopsis of the NTSB report is available online.

Failure to provide a safe place to work, failure to warn of known hazards and failure to follow procedures and regulations are all examples of negligent conditions that could entitle an injured seaman or the family of a deceased maritime worker to compensation under the Jones Act. Latti & Anderson LLP has obtained several multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements for our clients, including a $1.1 million settlement brought under the Jones Act for two seamen injured during a lifeboat drill. If you sustained injuries or your loved one died as a result of a company’s negligence or the unseaworthiness of a vessel, contact our firm at (800) 392-6072 to schedule a free consultation or fill out the form on this page to have our Jones Act attorneys review your case.

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