Local man safe after oil rig explosion

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 22, 2010

At least one local family is breathing a sigh of relief after hearing their loved one is safe after an explosion that rocked an offshore drilling platform off the coast of Louisiana Tuesday night.

The family of Will Jernigan, 34, of Andalusia, said Wednesday they now know he is safe and was unharmed. Jernigan was one of the 126 workers on the Transocean Ltd. drilling rig Deepwater Horizon that exploded Tuesday.

Amanda Jernigan, Will’s sister-in-law, said a family friend notified them about 5 a.m. of the explosion “because he knew that was Will’s rig.”

Jernigan said she and her husband, Raustin, Will’s brother who works for another drilling company, quickly went to work trying to figure out Will’s location.

“We didn’t find out until noon that he was OK, that he was on a cruise ship,” she said. “I don’t know how he got on it or any other details, but the company finally called and let me know he was OK.”

Late Wednesday, at least 11 people are still reported missing from the explosion that occurred at 10 p.m. Tuesday, and the Coast Guard estimated 17 workers were evacuated by air and sea to hospitals in New Orleans and Mobile. The other 98 workers were brought in by boat Wednesday – including Jernigan.

The rig, which was located more than 50 miles southeast of Venice, La., was still burning at midday Wednesday.

When the explosion happened, the rig was drilling but was not in production, according to Greg Panagos, Transocean spokesman. The rig was under contract to BP PLC. A company spokesman said all BP personnel were safe, but he didn’t know how many BP workers had been on the rig.

The cause of the explosion has yet to be determined.