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The site of the accident is known as the Macondo prospect, in 5,000 feet of water.

The question is what caused the explosion, "The guys I was with had no clue. They just said all of a sudden there were big loud noises, lots of things moving around, and they just knew they had to get to the life boats," said Creswell. With no special fire fighting boats, there's no estimated time of when flames might be out. "If I could equate it, they were putting all the water they could on the fire and they might as well have been throwing a cabbage on it," said Creswell.

Lafayette's Raymond Mouton and Marc Creswell with Acadian Ambulance were called to duty Tuesday night after learning about an Nike Jordan Uptempo

The blast Tuesday night aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig 50 miles off the Louisiana coast could prove to be one of the nation's deadliest offshore drilling accidents of the past half century.

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"In almost all of these things, there's not one thing that happens; it's a series of things," Bourgoyne said.

The chopper holds two pilots and two others, Creswell and Mouton came prepared for the worst, equipped with full flying ICU ventilators, I V pumps, and cardiac monitors. Acadian joined forces with a search and rescue team and the Coast Guard. In total, Acadian rescued 10 of the oil rig workers. Creswell says the people on his chopper were surprisingly in good spirits, "I don't know if it was shell shock or what but they were glad to be alive, they weren't distraught."

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Adrian Rose, vice president of rig owner Transocean Ltd., said the explosion appeared to be a blowout, in which natural gas or oil forces its way up a well pipe and smashes the equipment. But precisely what went wrong was under investigation.

"We're hoping everyone's in a life raft," Coast Guard Senior Chief Petty Officer Mike O'Berry said.

Workers typically spend two weeks on the rig at a time, followed by two weeks off. Offshore oil workers are typically well paid, earning $40,000 to $60,000 a year more if they have special skills.

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According to Creswell, Acadian is the only offshore 911 center staffed with paramedics and flight controllers 24 hours a day. The explosion is being investigated by Materials Management Services as well as Transocean, and BP, Transocean owns the rig and leases it to BP. Seventeen people were injured, four critically.

The rig, which was under contract to the oil giant BP, was doing exploratory drilling but was not in production, Transocean spokesman Greg Panagos said. Seventy nine Transocean workers, six BP employees and 41 contract workers were aboard.

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the fire was so strong it could be seen from 70 miles away. "I would say it's the biggest oil field disaster probably in the last twenty years."

Rose said the crew had drilled the well to its final depth, more than 18,000 feet, and was cementing the steel casing at the time of the explosion.

"They did not have a lot of time to evacuate. This would have happened very rapidly," he said.

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According to Transocean's website, the Deepwater Horizon is about twice Black Nike Air More Uptempo the size of a football field. Built in 2001 in South Korea, it is designed to operate in water up to 8,000 feet deep, drill 5 miles down, and accommodate a crew of 130. It floats on pontoons and is moored to the sea floor by several large anchors.

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"He's on the boat. That's all we know. And that's all we need to know," she said.

A total of 126 workers were aboard the rig when it blew up. The Coast Nike Air Max Uptempo White/Black

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Nearly 100 other workers made it aboard a supply boat and were expected to reach the Louisiana shore by evening.

The rig was tilting as much as 10 degrees after the blast, but earlier fears that it might topple over appeared unfounded. Coast Guard environmental teams were on standby, though officials said the damage to the environment appeared minimal so far.

The Coast Guard held out hope that the missing workers escaped in one of the platform's covered lifeboats. A column of boiling black smoke rose hundreds of feet over the Gulf of Mexico as fireboats shot streams of water at the blaze.

Off Shore Explosion, A Paramedic's First Hand Account.

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Crews were doing routine work before the explosion and there were no signs of trouble, Rose said.

A Paramedic's First Hand Account

Guard said 17 were taken by air or sea to hospitals. Four were reported in critical condition. Others suffered burns, broken legs and smoke inhalation.

off shore explosion. Creswell, former Acadian paramedic of the year, now operations manager says there was no time to waste. "This aircraft picked me up at my home and we responded out there and were on target about 90 minutes later." Riding in the Air Med chopper, Creswell and Mouton wore night vision goggles to see through the smoke. Creswell says Nike Air Uptempo 97 Freshwater

He said there are numerous defenses on a modern rig to prevent something like that from happening. For instance, fluids used in drilling are weighted with barium sulfite to prevent gas from traveling up the well, and there are alarms to alert workers to gas. Machinery is built to prevent sparking and is placed as far away as possible from places where gas might leak.

Kelly Eugene waited with nine family members for husband Kevin Eugene, 46, a cook on the Deepwater Horizon. A catering company operating on the rig notified her he was safe.

Ted Bourgoyne, a retired professor of petroleum engineering at Louisiana State University, said the explosion was probably caused by natural gas or a mixture of oil and gas coming up through the well, combined with some kind of ignition source.

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