Helicopter’s Skids Hit Oil Rig Railing, Flipping Chopper Into Sea

December 19, 2022Noelle Wiehe
oil rig chopper crash

The crew of a US Coast Guard MH-60T Jayhawk rescue helicopter treat survivors from a crash near an oil rig, roughly 40 nautical miles off Lousiana's shore, on Dec. 15, 2022. US Coast Guard photo.

When US Coast Guard Lt. Stephen Ratasky maneuvered his MH-60T Jayhawk rescue helicopter over the oil rig, he could see only a few pieces of wreckage in the water.

It was Thursday, Dec. 15, and he’d been scrambled from New Orleans that morning to search for a missing Rotorcraft Leasing Co. Bell 206-L4 helicopter that had gotten its skids stuck in the rig’s perimeter railing while lifting off before 8:30 a.m., hurling the aircraft into the Gulf of Mexico.

Ratasky made out what looked like the chopper’s tail boom, a damaged rotor, and life jackets. And that was about it, except for the yellow raft bobbing in the distance, roughly 40 nautical miles offshore.

“There's nothing that's gonna get a bunch of people moving than when you hear of a helicopter crash, and there's three survivors in a life raft,” Ratasky, 35, said.

oil rig chopper crash

Elite US Coast Guard rescue swimmers reach a life raft containing all three passengers from a downed civilian helicopter, roughly 40 nautical miles off Louisiana's shore in the Gulf of Mexico, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022. Screenshot from a US Coast Guard video.

The mayday came in while Air Station New Orleans was holding an annual safety meeting.

Aviation Survival Technician 2nd Class Richard “Dicky” Hoefle was the on-duty rescue swimmer, but the crew decided a flipped helicopter near an oil rig needed a second pair of eyes, so they’d dragooned Aviation Survival Technician 2nd Class Corey Bridges for the mission.

“You hear of a downed helicopter, the first thing you’re thinking of is that in order to survive the helicopter crash, you would first think ‘wow, these unfortunate folks are probably in a pretty bad medical condition,” Ratasky said. “You just don’t really know the status of the survivors.”

When the pilots spotted the raft, Avionics Electrical Technician 2nd Class Jacob Scarborough lowered both elite rescue swimmers into the 2-foot swells. They splashed up to the survivors, and Hoefle later told Coffee or Die that the trio all had “different types of injuries” but were responsive.

The crew used a rescue basket to hoist them into the Jayhawk. Then Hoefle stabbed the raft so it would sink. A floating life raft will trigger other mariners to radio in an alert, “and cause another search and rescue later,” the rescue swimmer explained.

oil rig helicopter crash

The survivor of a civilian helicopter crash is hoisted into a US Coast Guard helicopter, roughly 40 nautical miles off Louisiana's shore in the Gulf of Mexico, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022. Screenshot from a US Coast Guard video.

The crew transferred the survivors to emergency medical services personnel at Louisiana’s Houma-Terrebonne Airport, and that capped Ratasky’s first helicopter crash rescue.

“You don’t know the status of the scene,” the Raleigh, North Carolina, native said. “Is there a fire? Is there oil, fluids, or any other hazards that are there in the water that we would need to be cognizant of while we’re hoisting? It’s our job as pilots to mitigate that risk and not put our people in a position where they can hurt themselves or further complicate the situation.”

“We’re just really happy with the holidays coming around, these are folks who are obviously more than likely having one of the worst days of their lives and we’re able to pick them up, get them to higher level care and be with their families,” he added. “That’s a big win for us and we’re really happy with the result.”

Read Next: Feds: Pilot of Crashed F-35B Fighter in Texas Was US Air Force Major

Noelle Wiehe
Noelle Wiehe

Noelle is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die through a fellowship from Military Veterans in Journalism. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and interned with the US Army Cadet Command. Noelle also worked as a civilian journalist covering several units, including the 75th Ranger Regiment on Fort Benning, before she joined the military as a public affairs specialist.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
dear jack mandaville
Dear Jack: Which Historic Battle Would You Want To Witness?

Ever wonder how much Jack Mandaville would f*ck sh*t up if he went back in time? The American Revolution didn't even see him coming.

west point time capsule
West Point Time Capsule Yields Centuries-Old Coins

A nearly 200-year-old West Point time capsule that at first appeared to yield little more than dust contains hidden treasure, the US Military Academy said.

Ouija Board aircraft carrier
Low-Tech ‘Ouija Boards’ Have Helped Aircraft Carriers Operate for Decades

Since the 1920s, a low-tech tabletop replica of an aircraft carrier’s flight deck has been an essential tool in coordinating air operations.

Army vs. Navy mascot
The Navy Goat vs. the Army Mule: Mascot Origin Stories

For nearly as long as the Army-Navy football rivalry, the academies’ hoofed mascots have stared each other down from the sidelines. Here are their stories.

ukraine long-range weapon
Zelenskyy Says Ukraine Has Developed a Long-Range Weapon, a Day After Strike Deep Inside Russia

Zelenskyy said on his Telegram channel the weapon was produced by Ukraine’s Ministry of Strategic Industries but gave no other details.

7 of the Best Movie Ambush Scenes of All Time

Ambushes make for great action scenes. Here are seven of the best to ever grace the big screen.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, with his daughter, center right, reportedly named Ju Ae, review the honor guard during their visit to the navy headquarter in North Korea
North Korea Launches Missile Toward Sea After US Flies Bomber During Drills

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the launch occurred Wednesday but gave no further details, such as how far the missile flew.

  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
Contact Us
© 2023 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved