Developing
1:03 pm
Fri November 16, 2012

Coast Guard Says Gulf Oil Platform Fire Extinguished

The fire that broke out on a Gulf of Mexico oil platform this morning after an explosion has been extinguished, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The fire was put out at approximately 11:30 a.m.

Eleven people have been airlifted from the scene — four to West Jefferson Medical Center with serious injuries, including second- and third-degree burns.

Two people jumped into the water at the time of the explosion and are still missing. 

No one remains on the platform, said Captain Ed Cubanski, the Coast Guard's incident commander. There are three commercial vessels putting water on the structure, he said, and the platform appears structurally sound at this time.

However, a corner of the platform is charred and will require much closer inspection, said Cubanski.

A commercial helicopter landed on the unaffected side of the platform and evacuated workers to another platform in the vicinity, said Captain Peter Gautier of the Coast Guard. There are planes and boats on the scene, and a number of supply vessels are also assisting in the response effort.

Three of the four airlifted workers are in critical condition, according to Taslin Alfonzo, a spokeswoman for WJMC. Two of the workers have been transferred to the Baton Rouge Burn Center by ambulance. The second two will be transferred in about four to six hours, said Alfonzo.

The platform is located 20 miles south of Grand Isle. Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts says the facility is a shallow water production platform located in West Delta Block 32 in the Gulf.

Grand Isle response personnel have set up a command post at Post Apache Oil Field, according to FOX8-TV.

The facility was not producing oil, said the Coast Guard's Gautier. Preliminary reports indicate maintenance or construction workers on the platform cut into a pipe with an acetylene torch at about 9:15 a.m., and the pipe caught fire, Gautier said.

"It's not going to be an uncontrolled discharge, from everything we're seeing right now," said Cubanski.

A team of federal environmental inspectors is en route to the scene of the incident, said David Smith, a spokesman for the Interior Department's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

The platform is owned by Houston-based Black Elk Energy. Black Elk Energy owns, operates or has a financial interest in more than 854 wells on 155 platforms, located across about 430,000 acres offshore, according to the company's website.

The company's website is down as of this afternoon.

26 people were stationed on the platform, according to the Coast Guard. The production platform — separate from a drilling rig — is not believed to be producing a major oil spill, the Coast Guard says. A small sheen has been seen in the water; however, it is not believed to be a major environmental incident, Gautier said.

The oil sheen in the area of the platform fire is approximately a half-mile long and 200 yards wide, the Coast Guard is reporting.

At least three of the injured people staged in Grand Isle will be transported to Lady of the Sea Hospital in Cut Off, La.

This story will be continuously updated as more information becomes available.

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