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BSEE investigates deadly platform fire in Gulf of Mexico

Written by Marine Log Staff

blackelkNOVEMBER 20, 2012—The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) has begun an investigation into the explosion and fire aboard a production platform about 18 miles southeast of Grand Isle, LA, that killed at least one worker, injured nine others and left one missing. The platform, which sits in about 56 feet of water, is operated by Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations LLC.

Black Elk Energy says at the time of the explosion and fire on Nov. 16 there were 22 workers on the platform. It says that nine workers were injured and were treated at New Orleans area hospitals and 11 others were safely evacuated. The body of one worker was later recovered and the search for another continues. Several of the workers are Filipino, including the one killed and the other one missing. The production platform has been shut in since mid-August. The explosion and fire reportedly occurred when workers were welding a pipe on the deck of the platform. Grand Isle Shipyard Inc., Galliano, LA, supplied some of the workers and subcontractors for the work on the platform.

Black Elk Energy says it promptly notified the National Response Center, U.S. Coast Guard and BSEE of the incident. The fire was extinguished within an hour.

BSEE has formed an investigation team comprised of safety inspectors, engineers, safety management investigators, and law enforcement experts. The BSEE’s immediate priority is ensuring that the operator takes all appropriate steps to make the platform safe for personnel to be aboard, developing a safety plan to govern future activities, preventing possible future pollution from residual oil released during the explosion and fire and securing physical evidence for the investigation.

On Nov. 19, the investigation team met with Black Elk Energy personnel on board the facility to outline BSEE’s investigation plan which includes the collection and safeguarding of physical evidence, gathering accounts from personnel who were on board the facility at the time of the explosion and fire, and review of documentation surrounding the personnel, safety procedures onboard the facility and operations underway at the time of the explosion. BSEE is also overseeing the securing and clean-up of residual oil accumulations on the facility to prevent any additional pollution.

“BSEE personnel have been working around the clock inspecting the facility, meeting with witnesses and reviewing all available technical documents to ensure that we are able to obtain an accurate representation of what happened on West Delta 32 early Friday morning,” says BSEE Director James A. Watson. “When all of the information is collected and analyzed, BSEE will be in a position to decide which enforcement actions are appropriate and more importantly, how BSEE and the offshore industry can learn from this tragic event in order to prevent loss of life and injuries from future accidents.”

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