Early responders at Deepwater Horizon explosion honored

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wwltv.com

Posted on April 15, 2011 at 6:26 PM

Mike Hoss / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS -- As the area prepares to mark the one-year anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Coast Guard on Friday honored not only some of their own for their rescue efforts that night, but another group of Good Samaritans who saved lives by being selfless and in the right place at the right time.

The explosion at the Deepwater Horizon rig on the night of April 20, 2010 killed 11 crew members. The blast, 52 miles off Louisiana's coastline, sent those still on the rig into the water or into lifeboats.

The first to arrive was the Damon B. Bankston, an offshore supply vessel in the area.

Friday, those on board the Bankston were honored with the certificate of valor by the Coast Guard for putting their lives at risk to save others in peril.

“There was nothing, nothing routine about the work that was done on that day," said U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry. "It was quite an extraordinary and heroic effort.”

“Within the first hour we boarded 115 survivors that were able to escape from the inferno. Many were recovered from the water, but most from the Horizon's life boats," said Alwin Landry of the Damon A. Bankston.

Coast Guard helicopters from New Orleans and Mobile then arrived to air lift 17 of the critically injured patients to hospitals.

Coast Guard member Curt Peterson remembers well the faces of those he was there to rescue.

“They just seemed to be in a state of shock,” Peterson said. “Everybody was clumped together in groups not saying much. They call it a trance, I guess is the word, just staring at the rig.”

What happened that night was catastrophic with the loss of 11 lives, but Peterson said without the offshore supply vessel being close enough to get there, it could have been much, much worse.

“Having them there and doing what they did and picking up the survivors, assisting the wounded before we got out there, it's just immeasurable,” Peterson said. “I just don't even know what to think. It would have been like if they weren't there, they're the true heroes.”

There was a moment of silence for the loss of life and a standing ovation to those who saved others.

There were 126 people on board the Deepwater Horizon on the night of the explosion.

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