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A blaze erupted Friday morning on the Black Elk Oil Rig about 20 miles off of Grand Isle, Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico leaving one worker dead, one missing and four seriously burned. But unlike the BP Macondo Well disaster in 2010, the Black Elk facility was not a drilling rig nor was it operating in deep water, diminishing the chances of grave environmental repercussions. According to Black Elk Energy, there has been no oil leak due to the fire.
At the time of the fire, the workers were cutting a 75 foot long pipe, 3 inches in diameter that contained as much as 75 gallons of product, according to John Hoffman, CEO of Black Elk Energy. The process of cutting the pipe, said Hoffman, calls for a “cold-cutting device” or a non-sparking tool. However, Hoffman confirmed that a cutting torch was used instead, which ignited the vapors in the pipe.
Black Elk Energy did not directly employ the workers on the platform. The people on the rig were contract employees that worked for an oilfield contactor called Grand Isle Shipyard. Mark Pregeant, Grand Isle Shipyard’s CEO denies wrongdoing by his employees saying, “initial reports that a welding torch was being used at the time of the incident or that an incorrect line was cut are completely inaccurate.” An official investigation has begun to examine the facts surrounding the fire.
Late Saturday, one of two missing people was found dead underneath the platform. Black Elk Energy has expanded its search for the remaining missing worker. Three dive boats are now working around the burned platform, the local sheriff’s deputies are checking the beaches and any passing helicopter companies flying in the area have been asked to keep an eye out. Doctors say that one of the four men seriously burned in the fire is improving and is now in fair condition. Two others remain in critical condition and one is in serious condition. Only one injured man’s name has been released – Wilberto Ilagan. All other names are being withheld because the injured workers have not given consent to release them. All 26 workers on the rig at the time of the fire were from the Philippines, according to the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC, making it more difficult to reach their families.
A sheen of oil about a third of a mile long and 65 feet wide was reported on the Gulf surface, but that is believed to be from residual oil on the platform. According to Black Elk Energy, no oil was leaked as the rig has not been in operation since August. The Marine Safety Unit in Morgan City, La. and the Bureau of Safety and Environment Enforcement will investigate the environmental impact of the accident, according to a spokesperson from the U.S. Coast Guard.
Via The Guardian