Body of missing platform worker found as Coast Guard suspends search

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wwltv.com

Posted on November 17, 2012 at 9:53 PM

Updated Sunday, Nov 18 at 1:51 PM

WWLTV.com

As the Coast Guard suspended its search for the two workers missing from an offshore oil platform Saturday night, the president of Grand Isle Shipyards confirmed that the body of one of the missing workers was found in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Coast Guard called off their search for the two missing workers just before 5:30 p.m., but the C.E.O. of Black Elk Energy said their contracted dive vessel would continue to search for the second missing worker.

The Black Elk contractor discovered the body near the platform on Saturday. Crews had been searching 1,400 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico to try and find the two workers from the West Delta 32 oil platform. The platform caught fire on Friday morning, 25 miles southeast of Grand Isle.

"Non-stop search and rescue efforts have continued throughout the night and throughout the day," said Art Garza, a spokesperson for Houston-based Black Elk Energy. "We have been working with the U.S. Coast Guard officials and local agencies in assisting them in the search and rescue operations."

Nearly two dozen workers were on the oil platform at the time: four of them suffered serious injuries and are now recovering in a Baton Rouge hospital.

"All these patients are suffering from major burns," said Dr. Jeffrey Littleton, a burn surgeon at Baton Rouge General Hospital.

Dr. Littleton said two of the injured workers are in critical condition and two others are in serious condition-- all four are receiving specialized care in a burn unit.

"Stabilization of the patients airways, replacing fluids that have been lost due to the burn injuries and local wound care, with anti-bacterial dressing to combat potential infection," Dr. Littleton said of the treatment the workers are undergoing.

Doctors said the next 48 to 72 hours will be critical for the four injured workers.

In the meantime, Grand Isle Shipyard (GIS)-- a contractor which employed 14 of the workers-- said on Saturday that the two missing men are in fact their employees.

"We have notified next of kin of all individuals involved, but in respect for their families and their privacy, we will not be releasing their names," GIS CEO Mark Pregeant said in a statement.

The company also took issue with reports of what may have caused the oil platform fire.

"The cause of the explosion and fire is unknown at this time," Pregeant said. "However, 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."

Pregeant said the two missing workers could be identified once their families had been informed.

Federal investigators are now looking into what may have caused the fire. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said it has launched its own an investigation into the platform fire.

A spokesperson for Black Elk Energy said that there was no visible sheen observed around the platform on Saturday.

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