West Delta 32 Fire
What Caused the Accident on West Delta 32?
West Delta 32, an oil platform owned by Black Elk Energy, caught fire on November 16, 2012, around 9:00 in the morning. Initial reports indicated several missing crew members, possible fatalities, and numerous serious injuries. Although the platform was not producing natural gas at the time of the accident, approximately 26 crew members were on board when construction work aboard the vessel resulted in an explosion and fire.
Some speculate the explosion was caused by workers when they used a blow torch to cut through a pipe. According to news articles, the sparks from the blowtorch may have been thrown onto containers holding oil residue, resulting in the fire. Others say the workers were not even welding when the accident happened.
Grand Isle Shipyard employed 14 of the crewmen on the ship. The CEO of Grand Isle said that "initial reports that a welding torch was being used at the time of the incident or that an incorrect line was cut are completely inaccurate." According to the CEO, the blowtorch on the platform had not been used when the accident occurred. He also said that initial investigation had not revealed the exact cause of the accident.
Injuries, Fatalities & Environmental Impact
Reports indicated that about two dozen workers were on board the platform. 11 workers were injured—4 hospitalized, 2 missing. Several days after the explosion, divers located the body of one missing worker underneath the platform. Of the hospitalized workers, several suffered significant burns, but only two remained in critical condition for several days. Although the Coast Guard received a report of a dark substance below the surface of the water surrounding the accident, later news reports denied the existence of a significant spill. Anywhere between 3.5 gallons and 15.8 barrels of oil may have been released into the gulf, but a spill this size is not likely to damage the surrounding environment.
Black Elk Energy
Based in Houston, Black Elk Energy is a five-year-old independent oil and gas company devoted to acquiring, exploiting, and developing properties with these resources. The company currently has an interest in 560,000 acres of oil leases. In its short existence, Black Elk has devoted its energy to buying seemingly dried up oil and gas wells along the Louisiana and Texas coasts; they have made it their business to extract from them whatever oil remains. Although the company has only been operating for a short time, they have already acquired a spotty safety record.
Within just a few months, the High Island well blew, and its shear rams failed to stem the flow of oil.
The well had to be plugged and abandoned. In September 2012, Black Elk paid a $300,000 fine as a punishment for failing an April 2011 safety inspection on one of its platforms; the company was not following safety procedures at that location. The company is also facing an additional $140,000 fine over penalties at another platform dating back to October 2011. Despite its problems maintaining safe operations at its 1167 wells, Black Elk announced in October 2012 that it plans to drill 23 new wells in the Gulf of Mexico.
West Delta 32 Oil Rig Fire FAQ
What caused the West Delta 32 fire and explosion?
According to several reports, the November 2012 explosion that wracked the West Delta 32 oil rig off the coast of Louisiana was traced back to a welding operation. Three workers on the platform were charged with welding a pipe, but fuel vapor ignited and caused a series of explosions that ultimately claimed three workers’ lives and seriously injured two others. Proper safety precautions had not been taken before the welding work started, including the use of gas detectors and flushing gas vapors from the pipes prior to welding, which produces sparks that can easily ignite if any vapors are present.
Who has been held responsible for the West Delta 32 explosion?
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement issued 41 citations related to the West Delta 32 explosion. Wood Group PSN, Inc., Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations, Grand Isle Shipyard, and Compass Engineering Consultants were all named in a report by federal regulators that analyzed the cause of the blast. Wood Group PSN faced $9.5 million in penalties for safety violations and pollution, following plea agreements with the U.S. Department of Justice and local U.S. attorneys.
With offshore catastrophes like this, identifying at-fault parties can help injured workers and their families see justice served. This can bring some peace of mind in challenging times.
What should I do if someone I love lost their life in an offshore explosion like the one on West Delta 32?
If you lost a spouse, parent, or other family member in an offshore explosion or another serious incident on an oil rig, you deserve the chance to see justice served. Talk to an attorney about your rights. At Arnold & Itkin, we’re committed to helping families get the answers they’re seeking. We help them hold negligent oil and gas companies accountable for putting profits over the safety of their hard-working employees, who put their lives on the line every single day they’re on a rig that has not been properly maintained. To find out more, give us a call and undergo a free consultation with one of our caring and knowledgeable team members. We’re here for you.
Call (888) 493-1629 to Schedule a Free Consultation
Arnold & Itkin is dedicated to giving offshore workers the legal representation that they need and deserve. At the firm, we have recovered billions of dollars for injured maritime workers. If you have been injured in an oil rig explosion, contact an attorney from our office as soon as possible. We represented more than a third of the crew of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy and are ready to give you the legal aid that you need.
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