Two people are missing after an explosion and fire at a Gulf of Mexico platform owned by Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations LLC. An oil sheen was reported near the scene.
The explosion occurred just before 9 a.m. local time as work was being done on the platform about 20 miles (32 kilometers) off the coast of Grand Isle, Louisiana, Drake Foret, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman, said in a phone interview today. The fire was extinguished, Leslie Hoffman, a spokeswoman for Houston-based Black Elk, said in a phone interview.
Twenty-six people worked on the platform, which was not producing oil or natural gas at the time. Eleven injured workers were flown to area hospitals, the Coast Guard said. It corrected an earlier statement that two were killed in the incident. Four platform workers are in critical condition, said Taslin Alfonzo, a spokeswoman for the West Jefferson Medical Center in Marrero, Louisiana.
The explosion comes one day after London-based BP Plc (BP/) agreed to pay $4.5 billion, the largest criminal fine in U.S. history, for a 2010 explosion and oil spill at its Macondo well in the Gulf. An oil sheen that measures one-half mile by 200 yards was reported near the Black Elk platform, the Coast Guard said.
Black Elk holds stakes in more than 854 wells on 155 platforms off the coasts of Louisiana and Texas in the Gulf, in water depths ranging from less than 10 feet (3 meters) to more than 6,000 feet, according to the closely held company’s website.
Black Elk paid $307,500 on Sept. 11 after U.S. Interior Department inspectors found the company fell behind on testing some valves on an offshore oil facility for leakage, the agency said on its website.
The Coast Guard is using two boats, two helicopters and a plane in its search efforts for the two missing people.
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