GRAND ISLE, La – – Two people are reported missing following an explosion and fire that occurred on an oil platform operated by Black Elk Energy about 20 miles south of Grand Isle in the Gulf of Mexico on November 16, 2012. According to a report from KHOU-TV, the U.S. Coast Guard in New Orleans confirms that a fire has erupted in a Gulf oil rig off the Louisiana coast.
The U.S. Coast Guard received reports at about 9:15 a.m. Central Time that on Friday morning, November 16, 2012 there was an explosion and fire aboard an oil rig about 20 miles south of Grand Isle, LA.
The explosion occurred on the Black Elk Energy rig on the south-central Louisiana coast. Two people were reported missing and others were being evacuated by helicopter to a different oil platform nearby. This is an ongoing story and as of 12:08 p.m. Central Time it was reported by WWLTV.com that 9 people had been airlifted and two people were still missing.
This is what we know as of now:
Ed Cubanski, a spokesman for the Coast Guard said that despite earlier reports there are no confirmed deaths in the incident. He said an active search is ongoing for two crew members, although chances for survival are slim..
The four people airlifted to West Jefferson Medical Center were said by a spokesperson Taslin Alfonso to be in critical condition. They were being treated in anticipation of being shipped to the Burn Center in Baton Rouge.
Grand Isle officials said two others who were on the platform were being treated by EMS in Grand Isle and considered to be “walking wounded.” There conditions were not known.
Plaquemines Parish and Grand Isle officials said the fire was under control though a handful of people were still on the platform battling the fire as of 11 a.m. According to the Coast Guard the structure of platform is “intact with no structural damage. There was believed to be no oil leaking into the Gulf.
There were 28 people were on the platform at the time of the explosion and nine people were involved in the incident, according to officials from Plaquemines Parish. CBS News reported that two jumped into the water and they were believed to be the ones missing.
Captain Peter Gautier of the Coast Guard said the platform, run by Black Elk Energy, was not producing oil and no enviromental threat is anticipated. A federal official says a team of environmental enforcement inspectors is flying to the scene.
The platform is a shallow-water production platform, unlike BP’s Macondo well that blew out on April 20, 2010 on the Deepwater Horizon that killed 11 oil rig workers in the worst offshore oil spill disaster in U.S. history.
The owner of the platform is Houston-based Black Elk Energy who stated on its website that this month it was starting to drill the first of 23 new wells in the Gulf of Mexico.
Reuters reported that Black Elk Energy was investigated last August by the Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement for an incident in which two employees were dropped 60 feet into Gulf of Mexico waters due to a crane malfunction. No injuries were reported.
Black Elk also paid a $300,000 civil fine in September, related to a site inspection in 2011 of one of its facilities that revealed it was not complying with regulations.
Maritime lawyer, Gordon, Elias & Seely, LLP, state that maritime workers who are injured in the course and scope of their work aboard a floating vessel are protected under a federal law known as the Jones Act. Whether a maritime worker is an oil rig worker, a deckhand or the captain of a vessel, this protection grants the worker legal recourse to recover compensation when an accidental injury is suffered through the negligence of another.
‘The Death on the High Seas Act’ also provides a means of recovery for family members in cases involving fatal maritime injuries or maritime wrongful deaths. It states:
When the death of an individual is caused by wrongful act, neglect or default occurring on the high seas beyond 3 nautical miles from the shore of the United States, the personal representative of the decedent may bring a civil action in admiralty against the person or vessel responsible. The action shall be for the exclusive benefit of the decedent’s spouse, parent, child or dependent relative.