Platform worker missing off Louisiana coast

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wwltv.com

Posted on October 28, 2013 at 6:39 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 28 at 11:22 PM

David Hammer / Eyewitness News
Email: dhammer@wwltv.com | Twitter: @davidhammerWWL

An oil platform worker went overboard Sunday night off the southwest Louisiana coast and has not been found by Coast Guard search and rescue teams.

The man, who has been identified as 38-year-old Peter Voces, worked for a contractor on a platform in Vermilion Lease Block 200, about 75 miles southeast of Lake Charles or about 55 miles south of Freshwater Bayou.

The Coast Guard says Voces fell into the water around 7:30 p.m. Sunday night. The Coast Guard said it will continue searching through the night Monday and a helicopter crew and a plane will take up the search Tuesday morning.

Voces was part of a derrick barge crew from Houma-based Offshore Specialty Fabricators LLC, which was hired by the platform owner, Energy Resource Technology, to decommission the facility, said David Blackmon, a spokesman for ERT's parent company, Houston-based Talos Energy.

Blackmon said Voces fell into waters about 100 feet deep, along with an empty storage tank that also tumbled overboard, as he was working to take down the platform itself. The federal offshore safety agency, the Bureau of Safety and Environtmental Enforcement, sent inspectors to begin investigating the incident Monday morning.

Messages left with Offshore Specialty Fabricators LLC were not returned by Monday.

Blackmon said there was no discharge of hydrocarbons and the platform itself had been inactive since 2012, when the last of a series of wells connected to the production facility were plugged and abandoned.

The contract crew was hired as a part of Talos' plan to take down idle rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

ERT recently became the second Gulf operator placed on a Performance Improvement Plan by BSEE after a gas leak in July at another of its non-producing wells off the Louisiana coast. That gas leak is still under investigation. It happened about 60 miles south of Point Au Fer Island, or about 100 miles east-southeast of the platform where Voces fell and is still under investigation.

The only other oil company on a Performance Improvement Plan is Black Elk, owner of a platform that exploded last November, killing three workers.

Before Talos purchased ERT in early 2013, the company had a fatal crane accident on one of its platforms off the Texas coast in August 2011. The fixed platform crane was lifting a generator when wire ropes failed, the generator crashed to the deck, the crane boom broke and a metal bridle piece fell and struck a rigger, killing him. A federal accident investigation found that ERT had no internal guidelines for crane operations and inspections.

Blackmon said that Talos has been working diligently to improve safety systems through the government's SEMS process.

"Talos Energy acquired ERT in February of this year and has since enhanced inspection protocols and safety performance standards, and increased internal compliance and regulatory staff," Blackmon said. "As a company, we operate under and require our contractors to operate under an exhaustive SEMS plan, and (we) take steps to ensure that our contractors implement safety training programs for their workers that meet or exceed industry standards." 

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard hasn't given up hope of saving Voces.

The Coast Guard says the following vessels are on the scene:

  • The 87-foot Coast Guard Cutters Pompano and Skipjack;
  • Two HC-144 Ocean Sentry fixed-wing aircraft crews from Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile, Ala.;
  • Two MH-65 Dolphin crews from Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans;
  • The offshore supply vessels Captain Bill and Becky Cabarella and four additional offshore supply vessels.

"The Coast Guard, in coordination with the civilian good Samaritans vessels, are aggressively searching for Mr. Voces," said Commander Ken Blair, search-and-rescue mission coordinator with Sector New Orleans.

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