When the “Mayday” call went out, they responded.
Destin’s Ronnie Youmans was one of three captains aboard the Randi Katherine, a 150-foot offshore supply vessel, which responded to the oil rig explosion Friday morning 25 miles southeast of Grand Isle, La.
“We had to respond. That’s just what you do,” said Youmans, whose vessel was about 17 miles away when the explosion rocked the platform.
It took the crew aboard the Randi Katherine a little more than an hour to get to the West Delta 32-A platform, an oil and natural gas platform, owned by Black Elk Oil Co., out of Houston, Texas.
“It was still burning when we got there,” Youmans said.
About 20 boats responded to the incident, plus two Coast Guard boats.
Because the Randi Katherine had a bigger water cannon, they moved in closer and took aim at the fire.
“We took position and put it on out,” Youmans told The Log in an interview from Louisiana. Youmans said he and the five-man crew aboard the vessel had to take turns on the water cannon because of bone-chilling temperatures on the gulf.
“We pumped water on it for about an hour until the Coast Guard wanted to inspect it to make sure the fire was out,” Youmans said.
During the response, Chris Bender was captain at the helm of the Randi Katherine, while Youmans was the on-the-scene captain. Capt. Chad Hickman was the engineer aboard the vessel, along with deckhands Maxwell Lacy and Anthony McKenzie.
Youmans said no oil was spotted in the water.
“The platform was ‘shut in,’ meaning down for repairs,” when the explosion took place, he said.
Media reports stated that two were missing, and 11 were inured — with four critically burned in the fire. Youmans offered a more grim toll. While 11 injured workers were airlifted out, Youmans said two men were killed and two were missing.
“The Coast Guard was still searching for the two missing men when I came into Grand Isle, La., at 8:45 p.m. (Friday night),” Youmans said.
Youmans, who used to captain the party boat Destiny out of Fishing Fleet Marina, is a regular worker in the oil fields, which he calls “the patch.”
“By no means were we trying to be heroes, we were just doing our jobs,” Youmans said.