Lafayette, LA Helicopter Crash In Gulf Of Mexico, Dec 1977
17 KILLED IN GULF CRASH.
Lafayette, La. (UPI) -- An unattended crain left protruding into the landing pad of an offshore drilling rig apparently caused the helicopter crash that sent 17 men to their deaths in the Gulf of Mexico, investigators said today.
All but two of the 19 men aboard the twin-engine French-built crash were killed in the accident Thursday. None of the bodies had been recovered by dawn today.
"Our preliminary investigation indicaeds there's a possiblity that the crane which was unattended was left in a position which encroached on the landing area," said FRANK LEE a spokesman for Petrolium Helicopters, Inc.
He said the company's safety officer and several assistants were on the Penzoil Co. rig about 90 miles southwest of Morgan City, La., today investigating the crash.
A Coast Guard rescue boat searched waters around the rig through the night looking for debris and bodies. A helicopter joined in the search at dawn.
"We had our boats out all night and the chopper went out at first light," said Coast Guard Chief LARRY FAIR. "They will run patterns designated by us or by whoever's in command. Today we're going something like 10 miles out from the rig."
The helicopter that went down was one of about 200 used by PHI ini shuttling 7,200 offshore workers to and from rigs in the Gulf of Mexico each day. It spun wildly out of control after colliding with the crane, then slammed into a small landing platform and dropped 130 feet to the waters below.
Teams from both the firm and the National Transportation Safety Board went to the scene to study the cause of the accident.
One of the two survivors, MICHAEL PESCHIER, 34, of Lafayette, said he heard a loud noise just before the accident. PESCHIER said he survived because he was thrown free of the helicopter.
"He said he blacked out at first, so he doesn't really know what happened," said his mother, MARY PESCHIER, who talked with him at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital.
"When he came to he was in the water. He said it was real windy out there. The water was pretty choppy, too. But I don't think he really knows yet what happened."
PESCHIER and ROBERT BERRY, the co-pilot, were in satisfactory condition with minor injuries. Both were heavily sedeated.
Pennzoil Co. operates the platform, known as Platform A, which holds both oil and gas wells in 200 feet of water about 90 miles southwest of Morgan City, La. PESCHIER and 15 of those killed were Pennzoil employees.
Pilot TED LEETE of Lafayette also was killed, along with a 17th man who worked for an oilfield contractor. His name was withheld.
The accident occurred shortly after noon, and the helicopter company immediately dispatched several aircraft to the scene and began rescue operations.
The Coast Guard, which was notified about two hours later, sent a cutter, several helicopters and an airplane from Mobile, Ala.
Winds were ranging from 20 to 30 knots and seas were reported at eight to 10 feet at the time of the accident.
Delta Democrat-Times Greenville Mississippi 1977-12-09