Gulf of Mexico, TX Drilling Rig Explosion, Mar 1980


Galveston, Texas (UPI) -- A crew on a rig in the Gulf of Mexico tried to drill through a gas pocket that buckled the platform, but minutes later a massive explosion sent the workers leaping toward emergency ropes and into the water. Two crewmen were killed and four other were missing and presumed dead.
Two bodies were recovered soon after the predawn blowout Monday, and rescuers said they had little hope of finding four other missing men. Twenty-nine other crewmen were injured.
Pennzoil of Houston, operator of the drilling platform 95 miles southeast of Galveston, planned to start an investigation of the accident today.
An emergency medical technician flown to a Shell Oil Co. rig where the injured were taken by boat after the accident, said he learned from talking with survivors that they had tried to save the well after experiencing drilling problems.
"The drill hit a gas pocket and bucked back up. They said they tried to drill on through it but it didn't work. I think they were trying to save the rig, trying to keep it from blowing out," said David White, senior supervisor for Galveston Emergency Medical Services.
He said the men had "six minutes' warning" but apparently chose not to heed it.
When the well blew, "most of them jumped over the edge into the water and then the boats picked them up," he said. "They had emergency ropes. There were a lot of rope burns on hands."

Logansport Pharos-Tribune Indiana 1980-03-25



Galveston, (AP) -- Searchers Tuesday found the bodies of two men killed when a drilling platform exploded and caught fire off the Texas coast, raising the death count to four. Two men are still missing.
The bodies were recovered about noon, one official said. The Coast Guard said Tuesday it discontinued its search at dusk Monday and would not resume it unless new information developes. A thorough search was made all day Monday, he said.
The identities of the two bodies recovered Tuesday have not been released. Earlier, officials identified all the missing as:
CHARLES FORBES, 32, Columbia, Miss.
JOHNNY LAMBERT, 23, Prentiss, Miss.
JERRY SUACIER, 37, Columbia, Miss.
ROBERT SMITH, 22, Alexandria, La.
R. D. Edwards, a drilling superintendent for Pool Offshore of Harvey, La., said three company employees boarded the damaged rig during the day to search for the missing men.
"If they are still on the platform the odds against their being alive are about 99 to one," he said.
Edwards said the missing men were last seen near the well head where the explosion is believed to have originated.
A survivor of Monday's explosion, which also injured 29 people, said flames were leaping across his chest as he watched "30 boys jumped 170 feet into the water."
ANDY SHERILL, 20, of Galveston said that after the first explosion "there was mud shooting up from the drilling hole." When a second explosion and fire came, he said, "everyone started panicking."
The Galveston County coroner's officer identified two of the dead as RICHARD D. McDONALD, 30, of Friendswood and DOUGLAS JAMES SPARKS, 23, of Houston.
The fire that englufed the rig had burned itself out by late Monday afternoon.
The platform was owned by 12 oil companies and operated by Pennzoil.
Bob Harper, spokesman for Pennzoil, said the company had a contract with Pool Offshore to drill for natural gas in the 310 feet of water.
Sherill said he saw a worker killed when "he fell into the fire. I looked down, but he wasn't moving. If he had moved, I would have helped him."

Abilene Reporter-News Texas 1980-03-26