Eight people were injured when the rig toppled about 3:20 p.m., five miles east of the Chandeleur Islands along the Mississippi-Louisiana coast, authorities said. They were taken by three Coast Guard helicopters to Gulfport-Biloxi Regional Airport, then transported by ambulances to hospitals in Gulfport and Biloxi, said Neill McInnis, a spokesman for American Medical Response.
About 8:45 p.m., commercial boats returned the uninjured workers to a Halliburton marina in Venice. Some had T-shirts, others had no shirts, but most looked exhausted and waved as they were led into waiting vans and an SUV and driven to Parker Drilling's New Iberia location, authorities said.
"We will definitely be investigating this tonight and tomorrow," company spokeswoman Rose Bratton said.
A Coast Guard Falcon jet on a routine flight heard a radio call that the Parker 14-J rig was overturning and that 41 people were in the water, Coast Guard spokesman Chad Saylor said. The rig, which had about 10,500 gallons of fuel on board, fell over in 40 feet of water, the Coast Guard said. There was a sheen of oil about 200 yards wide and four miles long at the site of the accident, where the rig was partially submerged, and it was drifting southwest away from land, the Coast Guard said.
The Coast Guard Marine Safety Office in New Orleans was expected to begin its investigation this morning.
RThe injuries were not life-threatening, said Steve Delahousey, EMS on-scene commander for American Medical Response. "They were very lucky," he said, adding that the workers suffered from "musculoskeletal trauma" and bruises.
Three people were taken to Gulfport's Memorial Hospital, two to Garden Park and three to Gulf Coast Medical Center in Biloxi. The Coast Guard identified the supply vessel LCD, the crew boat David McCall and the crew boat Brazos Express as taking part in the rescue.
Parker Drilling sent a boat to the rig to investigate, but nightfall was expected to hinder the investigation, Bratton said. Based on the information currently available, the malfunction apparently caused one side of the rig to become partially submerged in the water, resulting in the loss of the drilling equipment overboard. The company is continuing to investigate the incident and although no damage assessment to the rig has been made at this time, management believes substantially all of the loss will be covered by insurance. Pollution control specialists were immediately dispatched after the incident and they are currently on site. At the present time there is no reason to believe that any fuel or oil on board poses any pollution threat to the coast.
The Parker 14 J was working for Manti Operating Company in Chandeluer Sound 27. The rig is a Baker Bigfoot which was built in 1979 in Singapore.
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