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Search for oil rig workers suspended

VIDALIA — The U.S. Coast Guard announced Friday evening it had suspended the search for the 11 missing oil rig workers in the Gulf of Mexico.

Two of the missing men were from the Miss-Lou, Wyatt Kemp, 27, of Monterey and Karl Kleppinger, 38, of Natchez.

The 11 men were missing following a major oil rig explosion late Tuesday night.

Kemp’s wife Courtney Kemp said the family had been expecting the search to be suspended, and that she appreciated the rescue and recovery efforts.

“I would like to thank everybody for their prayers, because in our family God is the most important thing, and we believe God will see us through this and that we are very grateful for the time we got to spend with Wyatt,” she said. “People will never know how much their prayers and support, phone calls, food and everything they have done has meant to us, to me and my family.”

Courtney Kemp asked for continued prayers, and that people who had stories they wanted to share about Wyatt would write them down for a future memorial service.

Kleppinger’s mother-in-law, Kathy Sills, said that the family had also been expecting the news, but that things were hard to process without the recovery of her son-in-law’s body.

“The closure is not there,” she said.

She also thanked the community, and especially their church, for supporting the family in the ways it could.

“We have never felt such an outpouring of love and concern, so many people praying, total strangers,” Sills said. “This is such a close-knit community, we can feel the love and prayers, and that is the only thing that is sustaining us.”

The search was suspended at approximately 5 p.m.

In a statement released at the time of the suspension, Rear Adm. Mary Landry, commander of the Eighth Coast Guard District, expressed sympathy for the families of the missing men.

“Suspending a search is one of the most difficult decisions a commander has to make,” she said.

The three-day rescue effort by the coast guard covered approximately 5,375 square miles.

The rig on which the explosion occurred, which was nearly the size of two football fields, sank into the gulf Thursday.

A total of 126 people were on board at the time of the explosion. Seventeen were injured, four critically, in addition to the 11 missing crew members.

The cause of the explosion is unknown.

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