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Divers recover body under oil platform; 1 worker still missing

November 17, 2012|By Joseph Serna
  • Damage is visible from Friday's explosion on a Black Elk Energy oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. Two workers were missing after the blast; one body was found Saturday.
Damage is visible from Friday's explosion on a Black Elk Energy oil… (Gerald Herbert / Associated…)

Divers inspecting a Black Elk Energy oil platform that burst into flames in the Gulf of Mexico recovered a body from the water under the platform Saturday night, Coast Guard officials said.

Black Elk officials were not immediately available to confirm whether the body was that of one of two missing workers not seen since Friday’s explosion. The body was discovered hours after the Coast Guard had called off its search, which covered 1,400 square miles.

The platform, located off the Louisiana shore about 20 miles southeast of Grand Isle, was rocked Friday by an explosion and fire as workers cut through a pipe. Black Elk is based in Houston.

The platform had been shut down since mid-August, company officials said, leaving authorities little concern about an oil spill.

Only about seven gallons of oil spilled into the water, Coast Guard officials said.

The explosion took place at about 9 a.m. Friday, sending plumes of black smoke into the air as the rig’s workers scrambled to evacuate the platform. Images show a corner of the platform charred black and its metal skeleton twisted from the blast.

Black Elk officials said 22 were on the platform at the time of the explosion. Eleven escaped without injuries, and four of the nine injured were still hospitalized Saturday.

“Working in cooperation with federal and local officials, we are doing everything we know to recover the injured workers,” Black Elk Energy Chief Executive John Hoffman said in a statement Friday. “This is a heartbreaking event. Our total focus at this moment is to find the missing workers and care for the injured. We will not let anything stand in the way of these priorities.”

The explosion and fire happened a day after BP pleaded guilty to manslaughter and negligence charges and agreed to pay $4.5 billion in penalties in connection with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in the gulf, which killed 11 and was one of the country’s worst environmental disasters.

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joseph.serna@latimes.com

Twitter: @josephserna

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