Off St. John's, NF Oil Rig Disaster, Feb 1982

Ocean Ranger Drilling Rig Ocean Ranger Disaster.jpg



St. John's, Newfoundland (AP) -- One of the world's largest oil rigs sand today in a howling North Atlantic storm off the coast of Newfoundland and 84 workers were reported missing and feared dead.
Rescue planes and ships battled poor visibility in rain and snow in a search for any survivors. The rig operator, Mobil Oil Canada Ltd., said bodies were spotted in the water where the rig had been operating 175 nautical miles east of St. John's.
The men had been ordered to abandon the rig when it developed a 15-degree list after a night-long beating in gale winds and snow, Mobil said. About nine hours later, Mobil issued an official statement that the Ranger had gone down.
Two lifeboats were sighted by search aircraft -- one capsized and the other stern-down in the water. A partially inflated liferaft also was seen, rescue authorities said.
There reportedly were survival suits on the rig for all those aboard. Officials said they probably could have kept a wearer alive for about an hour, but it was not known if the workers had time to put them on.
A search and rescue spokesman in Halifax said waves as high as 40 feet made it impossible to retrieve bodies although tugs in the area could see them floating.
Two search and rescue helicopters were at the site along with an airplane. Two boats were in the area searching for survivors and another service vessel was heading to the Ocean Ranger site from other oil rigs in the area.
Two other boats en route from St. John's were expected to arrive by evening.
The company said there was no indication of whether any of those aboard survived the sinking or the attempts to escape in lifeboats.
A spokesman for the rig owners -- Ocean Drilling and Exploration Drilling Co. of New Orleans, La., -- said that of the 84 people on the rig 10 Americans and 25 Canadians were employees of the owners.
Company public relations officer AL SPINDLER said the remainder of the crew were service hands employed by sub-contracting firms. Most would be Newfoundlanders.
Mobil's brief statement said that "air-sea rescue has been unable to locate the Ocean ranger but the site has been identified by helicopter through the righ's anchor buoys and wave-rider buoys."
This equipment would have been attached to the drill rig itself and would pinpoint the drill site.
The rig reportedly carried three covered, 42-foot lifeboats.
Mobil said earlier that one lifeboat was launched at 2:15 a.m. (1:15 a.m. EST). The rescue center said the boat turned over about 3:10 a.m., but officials did not know how many men were aboard.
A Mobil spokesman said radio communication with the workers was lost and it was not known how many had abandoned the platform.
Two helicopters were sent out to life and crewmen who might be aboard the rig.
SPINDLER said the Ocean Ranger has been drilling off Newfoundland for about 1 1/2 years and in the present location since last November.
The severe winter storm hit the area late yesterday and strong winds continued to lash eastern Newfoundland today.
A Mobil spokesman said two other rigs, the Sedco- 706 and Zapata Ugland, were drilling in the vicinity of the Ocean Ranger and were safe.

Syracuse Herald-Journal New York 1982-02-15


Ocean Ranger.

I was the safety supervisor or the Industrial Realations Representative on the Ocean Ranger exactly one year early, in 1981!