Joe E. Savage helped to save Ernest J. Boudreaux, Carl E. Cupit, and Jimmy E. Peckenpaugh from burning, Gulf of Mexico, July 18, 1967. At an oil platform off the Louisiana coast, tanks containing 10,000 barrels of crude oil overflowed, and the oil caught fire. Boudreaux, 26, and five other workmen, including Cupit, 23, and Peckenpaugh, 21, jumped from the burning platform into the water, where oil on the surface was burning with flames 6 to 12 feet high. Boudreaux landed in the flames but swam out of them, suffering severe burns, and Cupit and Peckenpaugh acted together to aid him. As they did so, the oil tanks collapsed, greatly increasing the flames on the platform, and they could make no progress away from the flames. Meanwhile, from another platform 4 miles away, Savage, 29, helicopter pilot, and another man saw the column of smoke and flames at the scene. With Savage piloting, they took a helicopter there, finding flames rising 300 feet from the platform, and Savage set the craft down near the victims, who were then within 6 feet of the flames on the water. The swells caused the aircraft to pitch as Savage’s passenger moved onto a pontoon and crawled to its end. He could not reach the victims. By manipulation of the controls so that the helicopter would not be carried into the flames by the swells or drawn into them by the vacuum created by the intense heat, Savage maneuvered the aircraft until his passenger was able to grasp Cupit’s hand and aid him aboard. The helicopter swung about and almost capsized. The passenger moved to the other pontoon to balance the aircraft, and Savage maneuvered it back to the other men. The passenger worked with Cupit and Peckenpaugh in lifting Boudreaux onto the pontoon. The pontoon dipped partly beneath the surface, and the pitch threatened to cause the tail rotor to hit the water and disable the helicopter. Moving about to distribute their weight, the three men got Boudreaux into the cabin. Savage then lifted the helicopter from the water and headed for shore, the other workers being rescued by boat. Boudreaux was hospitalized but later died as the result of his burns.
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