Our Results: As a result of the firm’s efforts, its clients, who were the surviving families of the victims drowned in the catastrophe, recovered millions of dollars in damages.
This case involved the drillship Seacrest, which capsized in the Gulf of Thailand during Typhoon Gay in November of 1989. Out of 97 crew members working on the Seacrest that day, only six survived. Our firm represented the families of American crew members who did not survive the disaster.
Despite the fact that Typhoon Gay was quickly approaching, UNICAL Thailand ordered the Seacrest to remain stationed in the Gulf of Thailand. The drillship was left “in irons,” meaning that the ship’s eight anchors were left deployed in drilling mode with drill pipe in the Derrick instead of on the deck-level pipe rack. The drill-pipe stands inside the Derrick created a top-heavy condition that could not sustain heavy winds and high seas. The Seacrest was hit dead on by the storm. The force of the wind and waves caused the ship to drag her anchors along the bottom of the shallow Gulf of Thailand until the only anchors still attached to the ship became hung up on a submerged oilfield pipeline. The Seacrest then rolled over from the strain of the snagged anchors and the top-heavy condition created by the drill pipe in the Derrick.
According to one survivor, crew members struggled unsuccessfully to sever the anchor wires with fire axes as the eye of the Typhoon passed over the doomed ship. The Seacrest was found capsized and still dragging her anchors miles away from the drilling location where she first encountered Typhoon Gay. Thai Navy divers who later searched the ship’s submerged topside and quarters tragically found the bodies of crew members who had secured themselves to the ship’s rigging in a desperate effort not to be swept overboard. Several commercial divers on the Seacrest suffocated or drowned, locked in decompression chambers that were washed overboard during the storm.
Mapping and analysis of the bottom of the Gulf of Thailand (by side-scan sonar) revealed drill pipe that had spilled from the Derrick at the capsize location, as well as broken anchor wire and anchors left along marks created by the dragging anchors. This debris at the bottom of the ocean supported the survivors’ terrifying accounts of the horrific night that killed 91 men. Had the ship been secured for the rough weather conditions, the ship and crew members would have likely survived the storm.
In this action, Hugh Lambert acted as co-lead counsel on issues regarding liability and causation concerning the negligent operation of the drillship Seacrest. The firm’s efforts included traveling to Thailand to develop the factual basis for liability based on testimony and documents produced in depositions in Bangkok. The evidence gathered included analysis of complex issues regarding side-scan sonar patterns left by anchors and debris, meteorological data, vessel stability calibrations and time lines. As a result of the firm’s efforts, its clients, who were the surviving families of the victims drowned in the catastrophe, recovered millions of dollars in damages. In that case, the firm was hired by other renowned law firms because of our firm’s unique qualifications and experience in similar claims.