PORT ARTHUR, Tex. — A 160-foot fishing boat hit a gas pipeline in the Gulf of Mexico and exploded Tuesday night, killing three people and injuring at least four, the Coast Guard said. At least seven people were missing.
"It was just a boom and a big ball of fire went up into the air about 300 feet," said Allen Willett, a private helicopter pilot who ferries drilling crews to offshore rigs.
"We got three life rafts in the water and I hovered low over the water," Willett said. "My mechanic jumped in. . . . He got the one in the most distress, got him inside the life raft. The other two made it on their own."
Fourteen people were aboard the Northumberland when the boat hit the pipeline about a half-mile offshore, said U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Don Merwin.
Two Coast Guard boats and helicopters and private planes and watercraft were helping in the search.
One of the injured was in critical condition with severe burns over most of his body.