U.S. weighing next steps in gulf rig fire

Nov. 20, 2012 at 7:54 AM

NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- A U.S. safety board said it was collecting evidence before deciding what enforcement actions are needed in response to last week's Gulf of Mexico oil blaze.

Black Elk Energy last week confirmed that a fire erupted at an oil platform about 17 miles off the coast of Louisiana. Investigators said rig workers cut into a pipeline on the platform that had oil inside, sparking the blaze.

The rig wasn't in service at the time of the incident and no visible sheen was associated with last week's accident. One worker was killed and several others suffered severe burns.

The U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said it had investigators on the scene by Friday afternoon. On Monday, the team met with rig workers to get first-hand accounts of the accident.

BSEE Director James Watson said his team has been reviewing Black Elk documents to figure out what went wrong.

"When all of the information is collected and analyzed, BSEE will be in a position to decide which enforcement actions are appropriate and more importantly, how BSEE and the offshore industry can learn from this tragic event in order to prevent loss of life and injuries from future accidents," he said in a statement.

The Houston Chronicle reported the federal Chemical Safety Board investigators subpoenaed Black Elk records. The subpoena addresses areas of interest, including names of witnesses, physical evidence on the platform and the use of combustible gas detectors on the rig.

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