4 injured, 2 missing in Gulf oil rig fire

3:40 PM, Nov 16, 2012   |    comments
This frame-grab from WWL-TV shows an oil platform burning off the coast of Louisiana on Friday.(Photo: WWL-TV)
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Rick Jervis, USA TODAY 

November 16. 2012 - NEW ORLEANS - Four oil platform workers have been injured and two are missing after a fire Friday morning on a shallow-water rig off the coast of Louisiana, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Coast Guard Lt. Cheryl Hickey, command duty officer for the New Orleans sector, said earlier reports confirming that two people were dead were inaccurate.

She said 20 people were believed to be on the platform when the fire started at mid-morning. Eleven were airlifted to area hospitals in private helicopters from other energy companies. The fire was extinguished after about two hours.

West Jefferson hospital officials told WWL-TV that three people were brought in by helicopter in critical condition.

The fire erupted at a shallow-water platform 36 miles east of Port Fourchon, on the tip of Lafourche Parish, said Chett Chiasson, executive director of Port Fourchon, which services oil and gas companies in the region.

Hickey said crews were performing maintenance on the rig at the time of the fire and that the platform was not activity pumping oil.

A sheen was reported in the area, likely caused by onboard oil, but no active discharge from the well has been reported, she said.

The Coast Guard sent two rescue boats, two helicopters and a fixed-wing CG 144 plane, Hickey said, but private commercial helicopters and boats were already engaged in search-and-rescue efforts.

The platform, which is in 30 to 40 feet of water, is operated by Houston-based Black Elk Energy, which in recent years had been acquiring platforms in the Gulf, Chiasson said.

Unlike the 2010 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, which killed 11 crewmen and unleashed more than 100 million gallons of oil into the Gulf, Friday's incident does not pose a similar threat. Chiasson said.

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