Workers Still Missing in Offshore Oil Rig Explosion as Burning Rig Sinks
As rescuers scoured the Gulf of Mexico for 11 missing offshore oil rig workers, the burning offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon sank off the coast of Louisiana, extinguishing an uncontrollable fire.
A Coast Guard spokesperson said the calm, warm sea water increased the missing workers’ chances of survival. The search is being conducted with a rescue plane, helicopter, and a number of ships, the spokesperson said; crews had searched over 1,940 square miles of the Gulf since the explosion late Tuesday night, April 20.
Three workers remain hospitalized with critical injuries after a blast rocked the semisubmersible oil rig and sent a column of fire into the sky.
While the cause of the fire and explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig remain unknown, a spokesperson for the Minerals Management Service (MMS) wrote in an e-mail to a Los Angeles Times reporter that the incident is similar to an earlier blowout.
Blowouts are violent surges of natural gas or oil that often ignite, causing injuries or deaths to oil rig personnel.
About 35,000 employees work in the Gulf’s offshore oil industry. There are currently 90 drilling rigs and 978 manned platforms operating in the waters off the shores of Texas, Louisiana and other Gulf states.
Dangerous Industry Underreports Injuries
The MMS recorded 35 offshore rig deaths in the Gulf of Mexico since 2006. There have been nine major offshore oil rig fires there, killing at least two workers and seriously injuring 12.
Lawyers who represent offshore rig workers in personal injury cases said accidents aboard Gulf oil platforms and semisubmersibles tend to be underreported.
Attorney Michael Doyle of the Houston offshore injury firm Doyle Raizner told the Houston Chronicle, “There is a big difference between their actual incident/injury rate and their self-reported [rate].”
Doyle said drilling companies failed to report off-shore injuries to the Coast Guard in approximately a third of the oil rig employee injury cases he has taken.
“Often [company officials] deny an injury no matter what the doctors say, Doyle said. “So the injury rate looks low, but is not.”
Since 2006, the MMS recorded 509 fires or explosions on Gulf oil platforms. Most were classified “incidental,” meaning they caused less than $25,000 in damage.
The federal Minerals Management Service has recorded more than 500 fires on platforms in the gulf since 2006. At least two people have died in gulf platform fires over the last four years, and about 12 more were seriously injured before the accident on the Deepwater Horizon. No accident so far has measurably slowed the rate of discovery and production.
The Chronicle reports that the two deadliest Gulf fires occurred in 2008 and in January of this year on two Apache Corp. oil rig platforms. In the cases, one worker died of burns and another died jumping into the ocean to escape flames.
If you are an offshore oil rig worker who has been injured in the Deepwater Horizon incident or other Gulf rig event, contact a Houston offshore injury attorney who can examine the details of your case and help you use the law to protect yourself.