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Piper Alpha was like Twin Towers; - says the man who battled the blaze with legendary Red Adair.

Byline: CHARLIE GALL repoprters@dailyrecord.co.uk

A FIREFIGHTER who worked alongside Red Adair to quell the raging fires of Piper Alpha has compared the disaster to the 9/11 Twin Towers attacks.

Brian Krause said yesterday that the tragedy, which remains the world's deadliest offshore catastrophe, was the "defining moment" of his well firefighting career which spanned more than 1000 incidents.

He said: "I probably did over 1000 of them in my career and by far, even after both Gulf wars, there was nothing like Piper Alpha.

"That was the defining moment of my oil well firefighting career, that's for sure."

A series of massive explosions tore through Occidental's North Sea platform on July 6, 1988, claiming the lives of 167 men.

Brian said: "It was literally destroyed in a few hours, three quarters was gone. It's kind of like to some degree the towers collapsing on 9/11.

"Such magnificent giant structures that you can't imagine coming down. Within a matter of a few hours, they're gone."

Within hours of the disaster, Brian flew from the US as part of legendary oil well firefighter Paul "Red" Adair's team, charged with suffocating the fires which raged for 36 days.

He said: "We were on a helicopter flying over what was remaining of the platform. What was left was leaning and on fire.

"There was myself, my colleague Raymond Henry, Red Adair and Leon Daniels, who was the president of Occidental.

"We flew over it, making a number of passes, and I'll never forget it, Leon said: 'This is horrible, what are you guys going to do?' "And Red said: 'We can't do anything.

There's nothing left. It's too dangerous to get up there'."

In the days following the disaster the search continued for survivors and the fact people could be alive on the burning remains of the platform preyed on Brian's mind.

He said: "We knew there's 167 people missing. We didn't know if there's anybody still on there that's alive, or that's really hurt.

"I said, 'At least just let us up on there and let us see what we can find as far as people'."

The firefighting rig Tharos was not far from Piper Alpha on the night it exploded.

Despite pumping 40,000 gallons of water a minute on to the burning platform from half-a-mile away the paint on the Tharos melted.

Brian said: "The captain of the Tharos was very leery about getting up close again.

"But our only way of getting up there was to have him pull up next to it, put Raymond and I in a basket, and put us on.

"It was eerily quiet for something that big. A lot of screeching and twisting of metal still going on.

"And the only thing that kept it standing up was the 36 wells. The structure was destroyed."

Brian said it took him and his colleague less than an hour to realise there was a way to tackle the blazing wells but it took 36 days until the last fire was killed.

He said: "That was the finest feeling of my life."

Brian also revealed that Adair never actually set foot on Piper.

He said: "Even to the day he died he said that was the most difficult job of his career.

"He stayed on the Tharos in radio contact. He was 70 and it was just too dangerous up there."

Adair died in 2004 aged 89. Brian now works in Houston, Texas, for a major energy insurance company.

For many years after the disaster Brian received letters from the families of the victims thanking him for helping quell the fires that allowed the recovery of the bodies.

A lot of screeching and twisting of metal still going on

CAPTION(S):

DESTROYED Red Adair looks at remains of Piper. Above, Brian

TOUGH TASK Brian, centre, with Red Adair, bottom, and Raymond Henry
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 15, 2015
Words:649
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