In his 20 years as a boat captain, Dan Shaw had never tried to rescue an entire crew out of the water. But on Thursday he received a radio alert that 13 workers from an oil platform that caught fire in the Gulf of Mexico were bobbing in the water not far from the flames.
His boat was 25 miles away, one of the nearest to the scene of the emergency, and he volunteered to find the floating workers, the New York Times reports.
"We wanted to get to them as fast as we could and make sure we didn't lose anybody," said Shaw, 59, one of four workers aboard a 100-foot service vessel, Crystal Clear.
By the time he arrived at about 11 a.m., Shaw said, the men had been floating for two hours and had been swept a mile from the still-flaming platform.
They were wearing protective wet suits and life jackets and linking arms. The Coast Guard said that fortunately the surface temperature was 86 degrees about 80 miles off the Louisiana coast.
The men were pulled into Crystal Clear, then transported to a nearby oil rig and flown by helicopter to a hospital in Houma, La., the newspaper reports.
The rescue contrasted with the April evacuation of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf, when an explosion killed 11 workers and triggered the largest oil spill in U.S. history. In that disaster, witnesses have testified, life rafts became tangled and panicked workers could not find knives to cut themselves free.