Two Missing Oil Rig Workers Feared Dead as Coast Guard Continues Search in Gulf of Mexico

Posted in Gulf Coast,Jones Act,Louisiana Maritime News,Maritime Accidents on November 17, 2012

The U.S. Coast Guard continued their search Saturday, Nov. 17, for two oil rig workers who still remain missing the day after a fire broke out on an oil platform approximately 25 miles south of Grand Isle, La., in the Gulf of Mexico. The two men are feared dead.

Commercial vessels extinguish a platform fire on board West Delta 32 about 25 miles south of Grand Isle, La., in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, Nov. 16, 2012. First responders evacuated eleven workers and nine others were taken by helicopter to hospitals. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The Coast Guard said in a statement that three helicopter crews, a Coast Guard cutter and a fixed-wing aircraft crew searched a 1,400 square-mile (3,625 square km) area around the platform, which is operated by Houston-based Black Elk Energy

The fire started on Friday when workers were welding a pipe on a deck of the platform in shallow waters. The media reports that there were a total of 22 people on board the rig when the fire broke out. Eleven workers were evacuated and nine others were taken by helicopter to hospitals.

West Jefferson hospital officials told WWL-TV that four people were brought in by helicopter in critical condition. The men reportedly suffered second- and third-degree burns over most of their bodies.

Coast Guard Incident Commander Ed Cubanski said the fire was started by a torch cutting a pipe that was filled with a maximum 75 gallons of oil.

The fire was extinguished after about two hours.

Officials reported that the Black Elk rig was offline at the time of the fire, therefore there was little risk of a major oil spill.

The platform sits in 56 feet of water some 17 miles south of Grand Isle, Louisiana, and production had been shut down since mid-August, Black Elk said.

The cause of the incident is being investigated by The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which enforces offshore drilling regulations. The Coast Guard will assist as needed.

USA Today

Posted by Jones Act lawyer, Gordon, Elias & Seely, L.L.P.