11 Airlifted, Two Missing after Gulf Platform Explosion

By  | 

The Coast Guard says that 11 people have been airlifted out and two are missing after an explosion at a platform in the Gulf of Mexico south of Grand Isle Friday morning.

Incident Commander Ed Cubanski, a spokesman for the Coast Guard said that despite earlier reports there are no confirmed deaths in the incident. He said an active search is ongoing for two crew members.

The four people airlifted to West Jefferson Medical Center were said by a spokesperson Taslin Alfonso to be in critical condition with second and third-degree burns over a large portion of their bodies. Two of the victims were taken to the Baton Rouge Burn Unit. The other two victims were slated to be shipped to the burn unit in a few hours.

Grand Isle officials said three others who were on the platform were being treated by EMS in Grand Isle and considered to be "walking wounded." They were taken to Our Lady Star of the Sea hospital. Their conditions were not known.

"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. There was believed to be no oil leaking into the Gulf.

Cubanski said that 26 people were on the platform Friday morning. He said four left before the explosion. Eleven were airlifted out for medical treatment, two were missing and nine others were evacuated without injury.

Captain Peter Gautier of the Coast Guard said the platform, run by Black Elk Energy, was not producing oil and no enviromental threat is anticipated. A federal official says a team of environmental enforcement inspectors is flying 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.

“We cannot confirm or deny anything at this time, but we are assembling an incident command team right now,” said Black Elk Energy asset manager Kirk Trascher.