When an oil rig exploded April 20th off the coast of Louisiana, Acadian's Air Med, the One-Gulf Offshore Emergency Call Center and Acadian Ambulance were first to respond, transporting 18 injured workers to New Orleans area and Alabama hospitals.
In addition to the 18 injured, treated and transported, 11 remain missing and are presumed dead after the explosion and massive fire on the Deepwater Horizon oil platform located 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico.
Air Med officials mobilized immediately after receiving word of the accident. "With 130 people in the water and a massive rig explosion, we knew we had to get out there," says Marc Creswell, Air Med operations manager. The explosion occurred at approximately 10 p.m., making search and rescue operations one of the largest night SAR efforts in the Gulf’s history. The initial call came in reporting a fire on an oil platform, the type of incident they had responded to many times in the past. It was the second call that made the difference.
When off-duty flight medic Christy Mayeaux called Creswell, the true scope of the incident became evident. "Christy Mayeaux received a call from her husband who was 20 miles from the incident on another platform. She called to volunteer to help staff an aircraft, and using her information, we were able to establish that we had an overseas, night-time MCI on our hands. Christy made the difference that night," says Creswell.
According to Creswell, "Acadian serves hundreds of offshore oil platforms with its Air Med fleet and deploys 150 paramedics to staff the medical component on 75 of the platforms throughout the Gulf."
This was no ordinary MCI, according to Safety Management Systems (SMS) Director of Operations Matt Savoy, because it took place on the open seas, where patients literally were blown 100 feet down into frigid water, extricated from the water and separated from each other by multiple ships. Triage is difficult at an incident like this when patients are located remote from each other on several different vessels and rigs, with some still in the water while others are still missing, says Savoy.
Despite these difficulties, Acadian and other agencies rose to the challenge. The One Gulf Emergency Call Center staffed by Savoy and aero-medical dispatcher Nic Michel, coordinated rescue efforts with Transocean, British Petroleum (BP), the Coast Guard and other companies. In addition, three paramedics on neighboring BP platforms assisted in the triage and support of helicopters responding to the incident: Seth Mayeaux and Troy Bernard of Lafayette and Mike Jones of California.
Air Med's Jerod Meaux, serving as paramedic aboard the VIH Cougar Airship also assisted in the airlifting of six patients to the University of South Alabama Medical Center Burn Unit in Mobile. Air Med's Eurocopter EC-135, a new $5.5 million EC-135 operated by Acadian Air Med, arrived just in time from a staging platform about 30 miles from the site of the blast. A full instrument flight rules (IFR) capable aircraft, the Eurocopter is also equipped with night vision and weather radar systems, as well as full autopilot capabilities. Another Air Med crew consisting of Creswell, Raymond Mouton and pilots Dale Ducote and Seth Gardner airlifted two other patients to West Jefferson Medical Center in New Orleans.
In addition to these rescue efforts, nine Acadian ambulances and two Air Med helicopters were dispatched to the Belle Chasse Naval Air Station, coordinating with ground and air crews at the naval air station to transport injured workers to New Orleans hospitals. Two Acadian medics accompanied evacuated oil rig workers on the 30-hour boat ride back to Port Fourchon, assessing their conditions and supporting their medical needs.
SMS continues to supply medical and safety providers to a number of companies involved in control and cleanup of the oil spill. Under the direction of Savoy and Gentry Perry, SMS now has medical and safety crews stationed along the Gulf Coast of Eastern Louisiana and Mississippi.