Ronald Leon Diggins, 28, helicopter pilot, rescued Charles E. Fatherree, 30, perforating engineer, from burning, Grand Isle, Louisiana, August 21, 1968. When an explosion occurred at an offshore well in the Gulf of Mexico, flames fed by natural gas engulfed the derrick adjoining the rig’s engine house. Fatherree, who had sustained burns, climbed to the roof of the engine house 75 feet above the water. Helicopters and boats began removing men who had jumped from the rig. Diggins, in his helicopter, noted Fatherree on the roof and motioned for him to jump into the water. Fatherree refused to do so, even though heat on the roof was blistering. Diggins cautiously piloted his helicopter toward the engine house, which extended 14 feet from the burning derrick. Heat- created turbulence made control of the helicopter difficult, but Diggins maneuvered the craft until one pontoon was two feet above the edge of the roof. The rotor blades then were three feet from the derrick. Fathetrree leaped onto the pontoon; and Diggins immediately moved the helicopter away from the rig. Keeping the aircraft tilted to counterbalance the weight of Fatherree, Diggins took him to the nearest other rig. Fatherree was hospitalized for treatment of severe burns. He recovered.
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