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10 oil workers lost at stormy sea, only 6 rescued alive

In a series of events that could come right out of a tragic Hollywood movie, 10 oil workers were lost at sea after abandoning their rig damaged during Tropical Storm Nate and spending three days in the raging Gulf of Mexico before rescuers were able to find their raft. Unfortunately, not all of the men made it.

Reportedly, the crew decided to abandon the drilling vessel last Thursday after the storm caused such bad damage to the Trinity II that one of its three stabilizing legs broke. Just as the crew was ready to get into an inflatable lifeboat with water, a first aid kit and tracking device, it blew away, leaving them only with a flat rectangular raft with an inflated perimeter.

There was not enough room for the crew, was made up of three workers from a Houston, Texas-based company, three contractors and four Americans, so at least one worker, an Australian, was half-submerged in the water and tied to the boat while hanging onto the handles. He was unable to hang on and was swept away within the first hour.

Four Mexicans, two Americans and a Bangladeshi were all rescued alive Sunday after being lost at sea for three days. However, the Bangladeshi worker later died at the hospital.

The Australian was one of four men who didn't make it. Two of the other men who perished were Louisiana residents; one man's body was still tied to the raft and the other was found bobbing in a lifejacket.

The workers were on a mission for the Houston company doing seismic exploration for Pemex, Mexico's state oil company.

Ironically, Navy rescuers made it to the abandoned vessel just hours after the workers had jumped into the sea-torn sea, finding the rig swaying but still afloat. This is a tragic story that shows just how dangerous jobs on drilling vessels and other sea vessels can be.

Inevitably, an investigation will follow that will determine if the crew's employer was at all responsible for the grave situation that the workers were put in. Personal injury lawsuits could also likely result.

Primary Source: CBS News, "Oil workers survived Mexican storm in tiny raft," Sept. 14, 2011. Secondary Source: Washington Post, "Mexican navy recovers body of last of 10 oil workers who drifted in Gulf of Mexico in storm," Sept. 15, 2011.

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