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Oil rig workers kept at sea hours after explosion

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MIAMI — Three workers forced to escape on lifeboats after an explosion aboard an offshore drilling platform claimed in a lawsuit Tuesday that they were kept floating at sea for more than 10 hours while the rig burned uncontrollably.

"After these guys were pulled off the rig, they were kept in lifeboats for over 10 hours and saw the whole thing burn. They knew their friends were still on that rig burning," said Kurt Arnold, the Houston-based attorney who filed the lawsuit on the men's behalf. "They couldn't call anyone at home and say they were OK."

The lawsuit, filed in county court in Galveston, Texas, seeks unspecified damages on behalf of rig workers Joshua Kritzer, Bill Johnson and Nick Watson, all from Louisiana; and the family of Aaron Dale Burkeen of Mississippi, one of 11 workers missing and presumed dead following the April 20 explosion. Burkeen had a wife and two children.

Guy Cantwell, a spokesman for rig owner Transocean Ltd., defended the company's response to a disaster some 50 miles off the Louisiana coast.

"One-hundred and fifteen people got off this rig alive," he said.

Rig workers or their families have filed at least two other wrongful death or personal injury lawsuits against Transocean, rig operator BP PLC and other companies involved in the offshore drilling operation.