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3 Killed, 3 Missing as Barges Hit Gas Line

The crash off Louisiana causes an explosion with 100-foot flames. Two survivors are found.

October 13, 2006|From the Associated Press

JEANERETTE, La. — A tugboat pushing two barges hit an offshore natural gas pipeline Thursday, causing an explosion that killed three people, left three missing and shot flames 100 feet high, the Coast Guard said.

The accident occurred in West Cote Blanche Bay, about two miles from shore and about 100 miles southwest of New Orleans, said Petty Officer 2nd Class Nyx Cangemi.

The tugboat carried two people, and six people were on the barges, Cangemi said. Coast Guard rescue crews recovered three bodies and two survivors. Three people remained missing.

One survivor was severely burned and taken to a hospital, said Veronica Bandrowsky, a Coast Guard spokeswoman. The other person was not injured, she said.

Searchers aboard a helicopter were to remain out until midnight and return at first light today, Bandrowsky said. Others in boats were expected to comb the area through the night looking for more survivors.

The first report of the explosion came from a man on a nearby beach, Cangemi said.

"There were 100-foot flames at that point," Cangemi said.

The fire was put out several hours after the crash.

Gulfport Energy Corp. said the accident involved two contracted vessels doing work for the company in a large energy field. The company said that all its employees were accounted for but that it was still trying to get information on its contract workers.

"We are deeply concerned for all those involved," Gulfport CEO Jim Palm said in a statement.

The cause of the accident remained under investigation.

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