Early Friday morning, an explosion and fire ripped through an offshore energy platform in the Gulf of Mexico owned by Houston-based Black Elk Energy LLC. Initial reports suggested that the explosion occurred when maintenance workers were using a torch to cut into a pipe with 28 gallons of oil inside. United States Coast Guard Captain Ed Cubanski said that approximately 22 workers were onboard the platform at the time of the accident.
According to local news reports, John Hoffman, Black Elk Energy’s chief executive, confirmed that two workers died in the incident while 11 more were sent to various local hospitals. Taslin Alfonzo, spokeswoman for West Jefferson Medical Center, said that four of the injured workers were brought to the hospital in critical condition with second- and third-degree burns over much of their bodies. At least two other workers were reported missing after the incident. Rescue crews scoured the Gulf some 17 miles southeast of Grand Isle, Louisiana Friday afternoon for the missing workers.
Black Elk Energy is an independent oil and gas company headquartered in Houston, Texas. According to Reuters, the company was investigated last August by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement for an incident in which two employees were dropped 60 feet into a Gulf of Mexico waters due to a crane malfunction. Black Elk Energy also paid a $300,000 civil fine in September, related to a site inspection in 2011 of one of its facilities that revealed it was not complying with regulations.
Firm partner Muhammad S. Aziz is currently handling a shareholder oppression claim involving Black Elk Energy and the owners of the offshore energy platform involved in Friday’s incident.