Coast Guard reports mile-long oil sheen from burning Gulf platform


An oil platform has exploded in the Gulf of Louisiana, injuring at least one person. The Coast Guard tells MSNBC that the platform is still burning, but says it is not a drilling rig.

Update at 2:51 p.m. ET: USA TODAY’s Donna Leinwand reports that Mariner, the oil company that owns the Vermillion platform, reports that oil has spilled into the water, according to U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Elizabeth Bordelon. The oil sheen at the site measures one mile by 100 feet, Bordelon says. The company is unsure where the oil came from since the well was not producing at the time of the explosion, she says.

Update at 2:28 p.m. ET: A mile-long oil sheen has spread from an burning offshore petroleum platform in the Gulf of Mexico off Lousiana, the AP reports, quoting Coast Guard Petty Officer Bill Coklough. The officer says the sheen is about 100 feet wide. Three firefighting vessels have been sent to the scene to assist a fourth already in place, he says.

Update at 1:25 p.m. ET: USA TODAY’s Alan Levin reports that the platform is owned by Mariner Energy, according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The agency said that the platform was authorized to produce oil and natural gas, but had been undergoing maintenance at the time of the accident and was not producing.

Update at 12:52 p.m ET: USA TODAY’s Alan Levin reports that several Coast Guard helicopters were on scene by late morning and attempting to rescue the 13 workers who had been thrown into the water, according to Commander Cheri Ben-Iesau. The crew had donned brightly colored survival gear known as “Gumby suits” and there had been no reports of fatalities, Ben-Iesau says. according to Levin. “We are actively pulling them out of the water right now,” she says.

It was not clear whether today’s explosion was the result of a blowout or whether it had caused any leaks of crude oil, Ben-Iesau says. The platform is owned by Mariner Energy. The AP reports that the platform was not producing oil at the time of the accident.

Update at 12:14 p.m. ET: The New Orleans Tiems-Picayune descrbies the facility, called Vermillion 380, as a “fixed, manned production platform.” The newspaper says the platform is not involved in drilling and, unlike the ill-fated BP rig, is not a floating rig, but rather is a fixed platform.

Update at 12:11 p.m. ET: The Coast Guard tells MSNBC that the facility is not a rig, but is a platform that does not do any drilling.

Update at 12:04 p.m. ET: The rig, owned by Mariner Energy, is located west of the BP spill site, the Associated Press reports. The incident was first reported by a commercial helicopter company around 10:30 a.m. ET, according to Coast Guard Petty Officer Casey Ranel. The Coast Guard confirmes there is one injury, but no deaths. The platform is in about 2,500 feet of water, the Coast Guard said, but is not currently producing, the AP reports.

Update at 11:48 a.m. ET: Coast Guard Petty Officer Casey Ranel says a helicopter was sent to the site after a report that the rig was on fire “and that there was smoke and there were people in the water,” The Times-Picayune of New Orleans reports.

Update at 11:41 a.m. ET: The Coast Guard says the oil rig is located 80 miles south of Vermilion Bay, Louisiana.

Update at 11:38 a.m. ET: MSNBC quotes Coast Guard Petty Officer John Edwards as saying one worker has been injured, but he did not know the extent of the injuries. Edwards says 9 helicopters and some fixed-wing aircraft as well as four Coast Guard cutters have been sent to the site.

Update at 11:35 a.m. ET: MSNBC quotes a Coast Guard spokesman as saying all of the workers were wearing protective gear.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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