JUAN A. LOZANO
HOUSTON (AP) â¿¿ When waves as high as 40 feet disabled the 94-foot research vessel Jeremy Parfait and nine other oil workers were on in the Gulf of Mexico last month, he knew there was only one place they could go â¿¿ into the water.
Their boat, which normally would be elevated above the water by several metal legs, had toppled in the tropical storm and was floating helplessly, beaten by waves and wind. The 10 men jumped into the Gulf and clung to a 6-foot-by-3-foot raft.
"We know we don't want to go in that water. I can see it in their eyes. They are scared to death. They don't want to go in that water. I don't want to go in that water," said Parfait, the boat's captain.
Parfait, 39, and Ted Derise Jr., 32, told The Associated Press on Friday that the ordeal was a nightmare in which they saw friends and co-workers slowly die. The workers abandoned their vessel Sept. 8 about eight miles off shore from Frontera in the southeastern Mexican state of Tabasco. It was nearly four days before they were rescued. Three died in the water, and a fourth died later at a hospital.
As the men floated, Mexico's state oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, and the Mexican navy mounted a nearly 10,000-square-mile search by air and sea. Most were found just before noon Sept. 11 about 50 miles off the coast of the Mexican state of Campeche.
Derise and Parfait, who are from Louisiana, said they were pushed to the breaking point but never lost hope they would be rescued.
"When we hit the water, I kept telling them, 'They are going to come find us,'" Parfait said.
Along with Derise and Parfait, four Mexican oil workers and a Bangladeshi were rescued alive. Craig Myers, 32, and, Nicholas Reed, 31, both from Louisiana, were found dead. The Bangladeshi man, Nadimuzzman Khan, later died of exposure in a Mexican hospital. The body of another worker, Aaron Houweling of Australia, who had floated away earlier, was found three days later.