Eighteen people were aboard the Waymon L. Boyd when it hit a natural gas pipeline and caught fire Friday in the Port of Corpus Christi. Four crew members, whose bodies have since been recovered missing.
Right after the explosion, the United States Coast Guard was one of the agencies which immediately took action, conducting search and rescue efforts.
“For something like this, it's not in any book," said USCG rescue helicopter pilot Lt. Dan Gillis. "It's not in any training. It was more kind-of get-on-scene and, as a crew, we made the best plan we could, given the circumstances.”
Gillis said the team did not know how intense the explosion was until it arrived on scene.
“The surrounding area -- everything; the grass was burning, the barge was on fire," he said. "There was a lot of just fire. And our biggest priority, at that point, was just to keep the aircraft safe so we could actually do some good.”
The team included two pilots, a flight engineer and a rescue swimmer.
The flight engineer, John Tetter, hoisted up the two crew members. He said they both seemed to be in shock.
“Even when we came in to get them, they didn't even look at us,” he said. “And to me, that screams that they're still in shock. They don't really know what's going on.”
Tetter said he noticed the crew members were splashing water on themselves because of the burns they received in the explosion.
His first question to them was to see if there was anyone else in the water.
“Even in the helicopter, it's really hard to see people," Tetter said. "Sometimes, it's little dots. We were trying to figure out 'Is there anymore people there? Can we get more people out of the water? And he told me 'no.' ”
When the crew members safely were rescued, they were taken to an area hospital.
“I don't think it was until we landed at the hospital and got the guys transferred that I kinda turned to the rest of the crew and we all gave ourselves a look like, ya know, ‘What did we just do?’ ” Gillis said.
Within seconds, he said he asked his team members the next most important question.
“I asked the crew, 'Are we good to head back?' And every single one said 'Let's get back there and find more people,' and we were headed right back to the fire to try and get more people out,” he said
The two crew members' conditions are unknown at this time.