1 dead, 1 missing after platform fire

November 19, 2012

U.S. Coast Guard photo of the Black Elk Energy production platform

Houston-based Black Elk Energy vowed to continue searching for a missing contractor after the U.S. Coast Guard suspended efforts on Saturday offshore Louisiana, the company announced on 18 November 2012.

In a statement on its website, Black Elk Energy said it has hired additional dive boats and initiated a beach search with the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's department. Additionally, the company said it has asked all helicopter companies in the area to assist with visual search efforts.

The body of one missing contract worker was discovered Saturday afternoon near the accident site. The Philippines embassy in Washington, D.C., confirmed that the body was that of contractor Elroy Corporal, a 42-year-old Philippine national. Corporal leaves behind a wife, Mary Jean, and two children in Iligan City, Philippines, the embassy said.

Four other workers, also Philippine nationals, remain hospitalized in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Two are listed in critical condition and one remains in serious condition. A fourth worker, who was identified as Wilberto Ilagan, sustained burns over 35% of his body. Ilagan is listed in fair condition, the consulate said.

14 workers onboard Black Elk's platform were employees of Grand Isle Shipyard. The Philippine consulate confirmed that of those workers nine were Filipino.

There were 22 workers onboard the platform at the time of the explosion. In addition to the two fatalities, 11 were injured and nine were evacuated off Black Elk Energy's platform, located 25 miles southeast of Grand Isle, Louisiana, in shallow water block West Delta 32. The platform was not producing at the time of the fire, having been previously shut-in due to maintenance work.

Black Elk Energy CEO John Hoffman attributed the accident to worker error. In an interview with Houston TV station KTRK, Hoffman said a cutting torch was used to cut a line that required cold-cutting. However, Grand Isle Shipyard CEO Mark Pregeant disputed that scenario in an interview with New Orleans station WWL-TV, saying that account was inaccurate.

The U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) announced on Saturday that it has launched an investigation into the accident.

‘Our thoughts and prayers are with those injured and missing and their families,' said BSEE director James A. Watson in a press statement. ‘BSEE is committed to determining the direct and indirect causes of the explosion and will take appropriate enforcement action.'



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