Four missing after chopper goes down in Gulf of Mexico while departing from oil rig

Four missing after chopper goes down in Gulf of Mexico while departing from oil rig

The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) has launched a search and rescue (SAR) mission for four people aboard a downed helicopter in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, approximately 10 miles offshore Southwest Pass, Louisiana.

Helicopter rescue after chopper went down approximately 35 miles south of Terrebonne Bay earlier in December 2022; Source: U.S. Coast Guard (video)

The Coast Guard revealed on Thursday that the search was ongoing for four people aboard a downed helicopter, which had reportedly been in the process of departing an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico when it crashed. The search was initiated following a call from Rotorcraft Leasing Company personnel. More information will be provided as soon as it becomes available.

Busy time of year with three more incidents

This is not the first incident of this kind in December 2022, since the Coast Guard has been kept busy this month. Three other recent incidents included another chopper, which – while attempting to land on an oil rig – plunged three people into the Gulf of Mexico waters and two oil spills that took place in Port Sulphur and near Corpus Christi, respectively.

Another chopper incident

Earlier this month, the Coast Guard rescued three passengers from a downed helicopter approximately 35 miles south of Terrebonne Bay, Louisiana after Coast Guard Sector New Orleans watchstanders received a call from Rotorcraft Leasing Company personnel, stating a company helicopter with three people aboard went down in the Gulf of Mexico while attempting to land on an oil rig platform. 

In response to this call, watchstanders coordinated the launch of a Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans MH-60T Jayhawk helicopter crew to assist. Once the helicopter crew arrived on the scene, the three people involved in this incident were hoisted from a life raft and transferred to awaiting emergency medical services personnel at the Houma-Terrebonne Airport in Houma, Louisiana. 

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Sadie Simons, a Sector New Orleans command duty officer, remarked: “The coordination between our watchstanders and the Air Station New Orleans helicopter crew was key to the quick response and rescue of the passengers. After an incident this serious in nature, we are happy all three passengers are back home and safe for the holidays.”

During the incident, one passenger sustained back injuries, however, all three passengers were last reported to be in stable condition, according to the Coast Guard.

Oil discharge in Lower Plaquemines Parish drainage canal

At the end of last week, the Coast Guard responded to a discharge of oil into a Plaquemines Parish drainage canal in Port Sulphur, Louisiana, following a notification sent to Coast Guard Sector New Orleans watchstanders of an estimated 1,260 gallons of crude oil from an undetermined source that was impacting nearly two miles of the canal.

After this notification, the Coast Guard Sector New Orleans pollution response personnel conducted a preliminary investigation and hired Environmental Safety and Health Consulting Services (ES&H) as the oil spill removal organisation, which immediately placed more than 300 feet of boom for oil containment.

At the time, the Coast Guard underlined that the active oil spill response and recovery operations with ES&H and E3 OMI Environmental Solutions started on Friday, 24 December 2022 and were still ongoing on the following day with more than 840 gallons of oily water recovered by then. The cause of the discharge remained under investigation.

The Coast Guard further explained that impacts to both wildlife and vegetation were observed, thus, to deter wildlife from further accessing oiled areas, air cannons were incorporated in the response to produce large blasts of air every ten to fifteen minutes. These air cannons were planned to be utilised until the pollution threat to wildlife had been mitigated.   

Capt. Kelly Denning, Coast Guard Sector New Orleans Commanding Officer and Federal On-Scene Coordinator, commented: “We are working with government and industry partners to ensure an efficient and effective containment and recovery response and are committed to overseeing a timely cleanup of oil to mitigate environmental impacts. The local public, the environment and protected marine species are our top priority.”

The federal, state, and local agencies, which continued to be engaged with the response included Coast Guard Sector New Orleans, Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration Scientific Support Coordinator, Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Plaquemines Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, Environmental Safety and Health Consulting Services, and E3 OMI Environmental Solutions.  

Oil spill near Corpus Christi

The Coast Guard also responded to another oil spill near Corpus Christi at the end of last week, after Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi command centre personnel received a report of an oil spill in Corpus Christi Bay near the Flint Hills Ingleside facility in the La Quinta Channel.

Following this report, watchstanders dispatched Coast Guard pollution responders to the location to assess the spill. When Sector Corpus Christi pollution responders arrived on the scene, it was estimated that up to 3,800 gallons of light crude oil entered the water from a pipeline, which had cracked in multiple places. In addition, the responders observed a sheen of approximately 300 by 20 yards. 

Based on Coast Guard’s statement, the source of the discharge was secured and responders from Miller Environmental Services deployed more than 1,500 feet of boom to contain and absorb the oil product. While there were no reports of impact on wildlife, environmental assessments were still ongoing. On the other hand, shoreline impacts on the Spoil Islands were noted. 

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In relation to this oil spill, the Coast Guard issued a safety marine information broadcast establishing a safety zone in the Corpus Christi Ship Channel into La Quinta Channel, which was closed to all traffic during clean-up.

These clean-up efforts were monitored by Sector Corpus Christi personnel, who were working alongside personnel from the Texas General Land Office, the Port of Corpus Christi, the Port of Corpus Christi Harbormaster’s Office, the Corpus Christi Area Oil Spill Control Association, Miller Environmental Services, USA DeBusk and Horizon Environmental. 

These three incidents are not the only ones which occurred in December 2022. Prior to these incidents, the Coast Guard medevacked a 60-year-old male worker from a Transocean-owned drillship located 189 miles south of Port Fourchon.

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Additionally, an injured crewmember was medevacked from an oil tanker approximately 58 miles offshore Southwest Pass, Louisiana.

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