LA Platform Blast Injures 7, 1 Missing

Monday, October 16, 2017 @ 10:10 AM gHale

An oil platform in Lake Pontchartrain can be seen in flames following an explosion Sunday night. Authorities said seven crew members were rescued and taken to hospitals. One person remains missing.
Photo by Chris Granger

An oil transfer platform exploded in Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana Sunday night near St. Charles Parish and north Kenner, leaving seven people injured and one missing, officials said.

Search and rescue operations were ongoing Sunday night after the 7:18 p.m. blast as rescue boats were sent from the Kenner Boat Launch at the end of Williams Boulevard, Kenner Police Department spokesman Sgt. Brian McGregor said.

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The Coast Guard suspended the search for the missing worker, Timothy Morrison, 44, just after 7 p.m. Monday, 24 hours after the blast. Eight people, including Morrison, were aboard the offshore platform when it exploded. Seven made it to shore and were taken to local hospitals with burns, authorities said.

Five of those injured were taken to the University Medical Center and two to East Jefferson General Hospital, according to Mike Guillot, director of East Jefferson Emergency Medical Services. The five who were brought to UMC “have blast type injuries and burns” and are in critical condition, he said, and the two at East Jefferson are stable.

The platform, which is located in unincorporated Jefferson Parish, is in production and owned by Clovelly Oil Co., said Taylor Darden, who is a lawyer for the company and listed with the Louisiana Secretary of State as its registered agent. East Bank Consolidated Fire Department Chief David Tibbets said Sunday the platform is used for the transfer of oil, and the department’s goal currently is to stop the oil flow and, if needed, let it burn off safely. 

Officials said Monday morning the fire was still burning, but at a “very low pressure.”

A Facebook post from the City of Kenner Government said the fire ignited because of “cleaning chemicals … on the surface of the oil rig platform,” but Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto would not confirm that was the cause of the blaze. Authorities will perform an investigation when the fire is out, he said. 

A press release from the Coast Guard noted a Bayou Gauche Fire Department vessel and another “good Samaritan vessel are on scene fighting the fire.” 

Damaged platform shown Monday after a fire broke out Sunday night. The fire on a platform in Lake Pontchartrain continued to burn, though at a “very low pressure.” One person remains missing and seven additional people were injured.
Photo from the City of Kenner

The Coast Guard and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation will both conduct water quality evaluations, according to a press release from Jefferson Parish. In a press conference Sunday night, authorities acknowledged there was a possibility that the fire meant oil could be leaking into the lake, but noted that Jefferson Parish drinking water will remain safe because it is pulled from the Mississippi River.

More than six organizations were aiding in the response to the explosion, Conley said, including the Coast Guard, Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, Jefferson Parish, Kenner Police, St. Charles Parish, St. John Parish and several others. 

Flames could be seen on the lake Sunday night from the area around the Kenner boat launch, and the air smelled like burning rubber. Spotlights shone on the water as at least one helicopter was hovering overhead.

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