HOUSTON -- Four bodies found yesterday in the Gulf of Mexico were thought to be from a helicopter that disappeared with 10 people aboard on its way to an oil exploratory ship.
Two bodies were spotted about 60 miles south of Galveston by an offshore supply vessel helping in the search, the Coast Guard said. A life jacket with the words "Property of Era" on it was found a little later, followed by the discovery of two more bodies.
The twin-engine Sikorsky S-76A was owned by Alaska-based Era Aviation. The flight, which left Galveston on Tuesday, carried a pilot, a copilot, and eight workers.
The Coast Guard continued to search for survivors, but the choppy conditions made recovery of the bodies a challenge, spokesman Rob Wyman said.
"We are doing everything we can . . . but right now it is a very dangerous operation," he said from the search command post in New Orleans. "It is dark. It is six- to eight-foot seas."
Three of the four bodies had been recovered by last night, Wyman said.
The search had concentrated on an oil slick about 100 miles south of Galveston, but was moving northward where the bodies and debris were found. The Coast Guard Cutter Manta was to remain at the scene overnight.
"We hope to find somebody out there alive," Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Adam Wine said. Everyone on board was thought to have been wearing life jackets.
The helicopter last made radio contact Tuesday night about 90 miles south of Galveston. No inclement weather was reported at the time.
The helicopter's destination was an oil exploratory ship, The Discoverer Spirit, about 130 miles east of South Padre Island. The ship is owned by offshore drilling company Transocean.
The Coast Guard identified the pilot as Tim O'Neal of El Lago, but did not identify the copilot or the eight workers. The helicopter was chartered by the oil company
A patrol boat, five offshore supply vessels, two Coast Guard jets, a helicopter, and two commercial aircraft joined the search.