One person is missing and seven others were injured after an oil rig owned by Clovelly Oil Co. exploded in Louisiana on October 15, 2017. All of the victims required hospitalization for treatment of explosion injuries and burns. The Coast Guard’s search for the missing man is ongoing.
An eight-man crew was on the platform when the blast occurred around 7:15 p.m. A fire that followed the explosion engulfed the rig in flames. The oil rig is located in Lake Pontchartrain about a mile and a half from the shore of the city of Kenner in Jefferson Parrish.
Five of the injured were taken to the University Medical Center (UMC) in New Orleans; two were taken to East Jefferson General Hospital in Metairie. Paul Pfister, 52, of Mandeville, Cody Boudreaux, 23, of Chauvin and Devin Billiot, 27, and Brent Neil, 52, both of Houma, were treated and released. James Bordelon, 62, of Laplace, remains in the hospital and underwent surgery at UMC.
After being stabilized at UMC, Alvin Kembrel, 55, of Belle Chase and Lawrence Dufrene, 45, of Marrero, were transferred to the burn unit at Baton Rouge General Hospital. Mr. Kembrel was listed in fair condition; Mr. Dufrene was listed in serious condition, according to a report by WAFB 9. Dufrene’s family members told WWL 4 that he suffered second and third-degree burns.
The force of the explosion was so powerful that some residents in Kenner and the surrounding areas told told local media that they felt their houses shake.
Firefighters brought the blaze under control earlier this morning. However, a natural gas line to the platform that has been shut off is still emitting gas. East Bank Consolidated Fire Chief DaveTibbetts said the gas line covers a significant distance so it will take some time for it to burn itself out. “We feel confident from a firefighter aspect that we have control of the situation at present time,” he said. Tibbetts boarded the rig this morning along with Jefferson Parrish Sherriff Joseph Lopinto.
“We have been able to board the rig just this morning. There is a two-inch valve, a pipe, a natural gas pipe that is still burning off residual gas. That is not a live feed. It is very low pressure,” Lopinto said. There does appear to be environmental concern at this time, but agencies will continue to monitor, he said. Carlton Dufrechou, general manager of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, added that people should not fear a massive environmental disaster. “While it is imperative to get on it right away, this is not the Deepwater Horizon,” he said, referencing the unprecedented environmental damage that followed the 2010 oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 people.
Officials said there will be another press briefing later today. At that time, they hope to have more information about the injured men, including Lawrence Dufrene, who suffered second and third degree burns.
Oil Rig Explosion Search and Rescue
Rough conditions in the water are creating a challenge in the search and rescue efforts for Timothy Morrison, 44, of Katy, Texas. The Coast Guard was using boats and two helicopters to search the area. Using a grid-pattern, they had covered 30 square miles by 8 a.m. October 16. When asked by a reporter at the press conference on the morning of October 16 how long the they would continue to search for the man, Lopinto replied, “as long as it takes.” But later that night, after covering 90 square miles of the Lake, the Coast Guard suspended the search.
Clovelly Oil Company
Based in New Orleans, Clovelly Oil provides oil and gas production and exploration services. It is believed to be the only energy company operating in Lake Pontchartrain.
The rig where the explosion occurred serves as a collection and storage point for other wells. It was being fed by a natural gas well at the time of the explosion which occurred while maintenance was being performed, the company said in a statement. The exact cause of the explosion has not yet been determined.
In May 2013, the company was cited by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) for a probable violation of the pipeline safety regulations after a review of an accident.
Explosion Lawyers with Experience
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