Locals reported an explosion that sounded like a “sonic boom” at approximately 7:20 p.m. on October 15th. Sector New Orleans was alerted and launched a Coast Guard Station New Orleans 29-foot Response Boat-Small boatcrew, a Station New Orleans 45-foot Response Boat-Medium boatcrew, and a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin Helicopter in response to the incident. Bayou Gauche Fire Department vessels, Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries vessels, and a “good Samaritan” vessel were also at the scene.
The platform acts as a storage and transfer structure for oil wells on the lake. Clovelly Oil Co., the owner of the platform, said it is also used as a natural gas platform. The fire burned overnight, but was extinguished by morning. “Our first objective from the firefighting standpoint is we’re trying to stop the oil flow if there’s any and at that point we have to cool it and let it burn off,” said Fire Chief David Tibbets of the East Bank Consolidated Fire Department.
A Facebook post from the City of Kenner Government indicated that the fire may have ignited due to the presence of “cleaning chemicals on the surface of the oil rig platform,” but Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto could not confirm the cause of the explosion. Authorities, including Louisiana State Police HAZMAT Division, will continue to investigate.
Seven injured workers, five critically, were taken to a nearby trauma center. According to Michael Guillot, director of East Jefferson Emergency Medical Services, the injured workers were suffering from “blast-type injuries and burns.”
Search and rescue operations for the missing man, Timothy Morrison, 44, of Katy, Texas, were in full swing until Monday evening. After an extensive search of the area by multiple agency vessels, the search was suspended. “The decision to suspend a search is never an easy one,” said Cmdr. Zac Ford. “We send our thoughts and prayers to the Morrison family and all those affected by this incident.”