Edward A. Holdgraf, Sr., participated in the rescue of fifteen persons from a burning oil rig, Gulf of Mexico, May 28, 1970. At an off-share oil rig, a tank of crude oil exploded, causing flames to rise 150 feet into the air as burning oil poured over three sides of the platform and spread on the water. Some of the men working on the rig jumped into the water while others moved onto ladders and crossbars at the side of the rig where there were no flames. Holdgraf, 51, police patrolman, was serving as captain on a dual engine excursion boat then a half-mile from the rig. Aboard were nine passengers, including one woman. Holdgraf piloted the 42-foot wooden craft to the rig and maneuvered it to within 15 feet of the men, keeping the boat’s stern fuel tanks away from the flames. Heat was intense. The passengers threw life rings, with lines attached, to two of the man. Holdgraf then backed the boat away; and the passengers pulled the men aboard. By repeating the operation, a total of 15 men were removed from the rig. During the last three trips, Holdgraf had further difficulty because the reverse clutch on one engine failed and the boat tended to veer broadside to the swells. Conditions remained extreme throughout the rescue of the men, all of whom required hospitalization but recovered.
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