Gulf of Mexico oil rig explosion: 2 dead, 2 missing, 4 airlifted after platform fire

1:11 PM, Nov 16, 2012   |    comments
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OFF THE GULF COAST (WWL-TV) -  Two people were killed, another two were reported missing and at least four were airlifted in critical condition after a fire and explosion at a shallow water platform in the Gulf of Mexico about 20 miles south of Grand Isle Friday morning.

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 eight 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.

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.

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.

David Smith, a spokesman for the Interior Department's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, said the team was dispatched from a Gulf Coast base by helicopter soon after the U.S. Coast Guard was notified of the emergency. Smith said the team would scan for any evidence of oil spilling and investigate the cause of the explosion.

Gautier said it is believed that the incident occurred as maintenance workers were cutting a pipe and some oil may have gotten loose, causing the fire.

The Coast Guard said that after the incident, rescues were conducted by the Guard and by Good Samaritans. 

The platform is believed to belong to Black Elk Energry out of Houston, Texas. It produces both oil and natural gas.

"We cannot confirm or deny anything at this time, but we are assembling an incident command team right now," said Black Elk Energy asset manager Kirk Trascher.

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