1 Missing, 3 In Critical Condition After Oil Rig Explodes On Lake Pontchartrain

KENNER, LA (AP) — An oil rig explosion on a lake north of New Orleans, apparently caused when cleaning chemicals ignited, injured seven people and left authorities searching for another who was missing.

         There were "a lot of injuries," many of them serious, with at least seven confirmed and more expected from the Sunday evening explosion on Lake Pontchartrain, Kenner Police Department spokesman Sgt. Brian McGregor told The Times-Picayune. No deaths were immediately reported.

         Five of the injured people were hospitalized with "blast-type injuries and burns" Mike Guillot, director of East Jefferson Emergency Medical Services, told reporters. They were in critical condition, he said.

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         Jefferson Parrish Sheriff Joe Lopinto said three people remain in critical condition, with two of them in a burn unit.

         "Authorities on the scene report that cleaning chemicals ignited on the surface of the oil rig platform," the City of Kenner Government posted on its Facebook page Sunday evening.

         As dawn broke Monday, U.S. Coast Guard crews hoped to get a helicopter into the air in their ongoing search for the missing man, Petty Officer Lexie Preston said. The helicopter crew would also try and spot any pollution from the air, if there is any, she said.

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         Preston said that was the plan early Monday morning. She said the helicopter crew also would look to spot any sign of pollution on Lake Pontchartrain, if there is any.

         Sheriff Lopinto says the search has been complicated by four-foot to five-foot (one meter) seas and stiff winds.

         Reports of fire and smoke being seen from Lake Pontchartrain came into the Emergency Operations center around 7:15 p.m., Jefferson Parish spokesman Antwan Harris said in a news release Sunday night.

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         Clovelly Oil Co. owns the platform that is in production, said Taylor Darden, a lawyer for the company who is listed as its registered agent with the Louisiana Secretary of State.

         The platform, located in Jefferson Parish, is used for the transfer of oil, said Chief David Tibbets of the East Bank Consolidated Fire Department. He said the department's current goal is to stop oil flow and, if needed, let it burn off safely.

         Authorities acknowledged there was a possibility that the fire meant oil could be leaking into the lake, but noted that Jefferson Parish drinking water will remain safe because it is pulled from the Mississippi River.

         People on social media said they heard a loud noise that rattled some homes.

         Andrew Love, 32, told the newspaper he was inside his house about 10 blocks away when he heard the explosion. "My house actually shook," he said. "At first I thought it was a sonic boom or something, I had no idea what was happening."

         Flames could be seen from the area and the air smelled of burning rubber, according to the newspaper.

         The Coast Guard will be conducting a water quality evaluation as well as the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation.


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