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Long Beach : Inquiry in Offshore Deaths

April 03, 1986

State and county officials continued searching Wednesday for clues to the cause of a pipeline accident that killed two men and injured two others on an offshore oil island.

The four men were working on a drilling rig Tuesday when a high-pressure pipeline began whipping around and struck them, authorities said.

One worker, Stephen Lowe, 28, of Huntington Beach died at the scene, while another, Steven Linn, 29, of Anaheim, who sustained a severe head injury, was take by LifeFlight helicopter to St. Mary Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Mike Coleman, 28, of Lakewood suffered a bruised chest and Harold Smith, 34, of Westminster sustained a broken leg in the accident, authorities said. Both were treated at St. Mary and released.

The four were among eight workers on the rig during the 3 p.m. accident on Island Freeman, a man-made island about a mile off the Long Beach coast.

The metal pipe was under high pressure with nitrogen gas, but officials have yet to determine exactly what caused the line to break, said Steve Marsh, a spokesman for THUMS, a consortium of oil companies that pump crude from four islands off Long Beach.

Marsh said the accident occurred as the men were pumping the inert gas into an oil well, a common process that is done to test the permeability and other characteristics of the soil far beneath the rig.

Following the accident, authorities from the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the district attorney's Occupational Safety and Health Section began an investigation to determine its cause, Marsh said.

The deaths were believed to be the first on any of the oil islands, Marsh said.

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