2 missing, 11 injured in platform fire

By Simone Sebastian and Zain Shauk

Two people are missing and several others injured in a fire aboard an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico Friday morning.

Earlier reports had two people killed in the fire, but Coast Guard Lt. Cheryl Hickey said later that a search is under way for two workers unaccounted for.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze, which broke out about 9 a.m. on the platform, contracted to Black Elk Energy in Houston.

John Hoffman, CEO of Black Elk, said 22 people were aboard the platform at the time of the fire, all construction workers.

He said they were cutting a line, which ignited wet oil vapors and caused an explosion.

Hoffman said is possible the two missing men were transported on another company’s helicopter.
“Hopefully, we will find they were transported in to the shore,” he said.

Taslin Alfonso, a spokeswoman for West Jefferson Medical Center, said four men were brought to the hospital in critical condition by helicopter. Two were transported to a burn center in Baton Rouge, and the other two were to be transported later Friday.

All four had extensive second- and third-degree burns to large portions of their bodies, Alfonso said.
Of the seven who were less severely injured, Hoffman said two had been released from the hospital Friday afternoon.

The platform is located about 20 miles southeast of Grand Isle, La.

Hoffman said no Black Elk workers were on the platform at the time.

It all seven wells on the platform were shut in because of the construction work.

He said a small spill — calculated at between 3.5 gallons to as much as 15.8 barrels — was reported.

Investigators from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement flew to the scene by helicopter to begin an investigation into the cause of the accident.

Hoffman said his office is cooperating with that agency and the Coast Guard.