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Two workers from gulf oil rig explosion still missing

November 17, 2012|By Joseph Serna
  • Released by an oil field worker, the image shows a fire burning on a Gulf of Mexico oil platform Friday after an explosion. Two workers were still missing Saturday.
Released by an oil field worker, the image shows a fire burning on a Gulf of… (Associated Press )

Two workers on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico were still missing Saturday, following an explosion on the site a day earlier that injured nine other people.

The U.S. Coast Guard was searching a 1,400-square-mile area of ocean Saturday around a Black Elk Energy rig that burst into flames Friday when oil caught fire as workers cut through a pipe. The platform is off the Louisiana shore, about 20 miles southeast of Grand Isle.

The rig 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. local time, shooting plumes of black smoke over the ocean horizon. Images of the site show a corner of the platform charred black and its metal skeleton twisted from the blast.

Black Elk Energy 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 in the hospital Saturday.

Authorities have not released the names of the two employees unaccounted for.

“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 released 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 fire came just a day after the BP oil company pleaded guilty to manslaughter and negligence charges and agreed to pay a $4.5-billion fine in connection with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in the gulf, one of the country’s worst environmental disasters.

As part of the agreement resolving all criminal charges by the U.S. Justice Department and claims with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the London-based corporation pleaded guilty to 11 felonies for misconduct tied to the 11 who died in the blast.

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joseph.serna@latimes.com

Twitter: @josephserna

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