The Norman Transcript

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November 18, 2012

Coast Guard ends search after oil rig fire

NEW ORLEANS — The Coast Guard on Saturday evening called off its search for two workers missing after a fire broke out on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, sending an ominous black plume of smoke into the air reminiscent of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion that transformed the oil industry and life along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Chief Petty Officer Bobby Nash told The Associated Press that the search was ended at about 5:25 p.m. CST.

Coast Guard officials said in a news release Saturday that helicopters were searching for the missing workers from the air, while a cutter searched the sea.

The blaze, which started Friday while workers were using a torch to cut an oil line, severely burned at least four workers. Their burns were not as extensive as initially reported, said Leslie Hoffman, a spokeswoman for Black Elk Energy, which owned the platform.

Officials at Baton Rouge General Medical Center said Saturday that two men remained in critical condition, while two men remained in serious condition. All four, who are being treated in a burn unit, are employees of oilfield contractor Grand Isle Shipyard and are from the Philippines. The hospital said it and Grand Isle Shipyard are trying to reach the men’s families in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, officials said no oil was leaking from the charred platform, a relief for Gulf Coast residents still weary two years after the BP oil spill illustrated the risk that offshore drilling poses to the region’s ecosystem and economy.

It’s unclear whether the missing men worked for a contractor. Grand Isle Shipyard employed 14 of the 22 workers on the platform at the time of the incident, WWL-TV in New Orleans reported. A man who answered the phone at the company’s Galliano, La., office on Saturday said no one was available to comment.

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