MORGAN CITY, La. — Bryce Merrill, Curator of the Diving & R.O.V. Historical Preservation Museum in Morgan City, worked offshore for more than 40 years. He says this week's disaster in the Gulf of Mexico hits close to home.
"I was on two other rigs during my career offshore that almost sank. Both in daylight hours, calm waters. We lost control of the system, the alarm starts going off, the rig starts tipping, and you're running up deck."
His most memorable night was February 15, 1982. Merrill says he was working off the coast of Canada on the Sedco 706 when a storm hit. 70-foot waves started coming over onto the deck, damaging the rig. That night, a semi-submersible rig, the Ocean Ranger, sank. All 84 crew members died.
Mayday calls were made from the Ocean Ranger, only seven miles away from where Merrill was working.
Hearing about accidents on a rig, Merrill says, is never easy.
"Anytime time I hear an incident offshore like that, it brings back a lot of memories. I lost a lot of friends on that rig that night, and it was just a terrible situation for us. We had guys who had brothers on that rig."
He says it gets harder each time he hears of an incident on a rig.
"Those guys are all not only sons, fathers, brothers, cousins, uncles, aunts, daughters..."
Merrill tells us he has witnessed crew members surviving for weeks after a rig sinks due to air pockets. He also says his heart goes out to the famlies affected by the disaster in the Gulf, adding that while he believes the people who work offshore are strong, he has respect for those who wait for them to come home at the end of a shift.
Read more about the Ocean Ranger disaster here.
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