Choppers, cutter used in search for missing workers Saturday

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wwltv.com

Posted on November 17, 2012 at 11:17 AM

OFF THE GULF COAST - Coast Guard officials say helicopters and an 87-foot cutter are being used in the search for two missing workers who went into the water Friday morning after a fire and explosion on a Gulf platform south of Grand Isle.

In addition to the missing worker, four other workers were badly burned and were airlifted to the West Jefferson Medical Center Friday before they were transferred to the burn unit at Baton Rouge General hospital.

The burned men were said to be in critical condition with second and third-degree burns over most of their bodies.

A handful of other 'walking wounded' were treated in Grand Isle and moved to Our Lady Star of the Sea hospital. Their conditons weren't immediately known.

Coast Guard Incident Commander Ed Cubanski said that 26 people were aboard the platform Friday morning. Of those, 4 left the platform before the incident, 11 were medevaced out following the explosion for treatment, 2 were missing and 9 were safely evacuated without injury.

Cubanski said that despite earlier reports there are no confirmed deaths in the incident. He said an active search is ongoing for two crew members.

"It's a terrible day," said John Hoffman, the CEO of Black Elk Energy. "When something like this happens, it tears at everyone's heart."

Cubanski said the fire and explosion came as workers were using a torch to cut a pipe that contained a maximum of 75 gallons of oil. According to the Coast Guard the structure of platform is "intact with no structural damage. Reports said that a small oil sheen was in the water that indicated less than 10 gallons of product had gone into the water. Cubanski said the spill was limited to the oil in the section of damaged pipe.

A federal official said a team of environmental enforcement inspectors flew 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.

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

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

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