Rick Jervis, USA TODAY
NEW ORLEANS - Two workers are dead, two are missing and four have been airlifted to a hospital after an explosion Friday morning on a shallow-water rig off the coast of Louisiana, said Chett Chiasson, executive director of Port Fourchon, which services oil and gas companies in the region.
WWL-TV quoted the Coast Guard as confirming that a preliminary report showed that two people were killed in the incident.
The fire was extinguished at mid-morning, after two hours after it erupted in flames.
West Jefferson hospital officials told WWL-TV that three people were brought in my helicopter in critical conditions and a fourth was brought in a short time later.
Coast Guard boats were at the scene assessing the damage and other private boats were helping to search for the missing crew. CBS reported that the two missing worker had jumped from the platform after it exploded.
The fire erupted at mid-morning on a shallow-water platform 36 miles east of Port Fourchon, which is on tip of Lafourche Parish, he said.
The platform, which is in 30 to 40 feet of water, was operated by Houston-based Black Elk Energy, which in recent years had been acquiring platforms in the Gulf, Chiasson said.
Chiasson said there was no drilling going on at the time, he said.
Coast Guard Captain Peter Gautier told WWL-TV that 28 people were believed to be on the platform at the time.
He said initial reports indicated that maintenance workers were cutting into a pipe and that oil may have escaped, causing the explosion.
Unlike the 2010 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, which killed 11 crewmen and unleashed more than 100 million gallons of oil into the Gulf, Friday's explosion does not pose anywhere near the same ecological threat, he said.
"The concern at this point is more along the lines of the lives of the personnel on the platform and the fire that's currently burning out there," Chiasson said.