JPSO identifies man missing after rig explosion in Lake Pontchartrain

KENNER, La. -- The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office has identified the man who remains missing after a rig explosion Sunday night in Lake Pontchartrain.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto, at an afternoon update for media, said 44-year-old Timothy Morrison of Katy, Texas.

Lopinto said responders are still considering the search for Morrison a "search and rescue," and not a "search and recovery."

The rig explosion occurred after 7 p.m. on October 15, reportedly rattling homes as far away as Destrehan. The rig produces both oil and natural gas, Lopinto said.

Aerial photo of damaged rig courtesy Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office

Seven workers were injured. Of those, three are listed as critical, and two have been taken to a burn unit in Baton Rouge. Four have been discharged from the hospital.

Alvin Kembrel and Lawrence Dufrene were initially transported to University Hospital where they were stabilized before being sent to the Regional Burn Center at Baton Rouge General due to the severity of their injuries.  James Bordelon was transported to University Hospital and is recovering following surgery.  Devin Billiot, Brent Neil, Paul Pfister, and Cody Boudreaux have all been treated and released today.

Investigators determined the explosion was caused by a large tank on the third floor of the platform, but it's still unclear what caused the tank to explode.

Hydra Steam Generator, Inc., a Houston-based subcontractor working on the platform, was hired to perform a cleaning measure on the platform's pipes.

There is no sheen and no shoreline impact from the explosion, officials said, only residual oil left on the rig that eventually burned.

A two-inch natural gas line ignited and burned throughout the night, but it self-extinguished about 12:30 p.m. Monday, according to local fire chiefs.

Numerous agencies are responding to the incident, including JPSO, Kenner Police, Kenner Fire Department, St. Charles Parish Fire Department, U.S. Coast Guard, East Jefferson Hospital, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and other agencies.

The company operating the platform, New Orleans-based Clovelly Oil Co., released the following statement Monday:

New Orleans-based Clovelly Oil Co. LLC (Clovelly) is responding to a fire and explosion on its oil and gas production platform in Lake Pontchartrain, which occurred at approximately 7:30 p.m. on October 15.

Three employees of Clovelly were injured, along with four employees of two contractors who were working on the platform at the time of the incident. All seven have been transported to local hospitals for evaluation and treatment.

In addition, another contractor employee is missing.

The fire has not been extinguished, although Clovelly is working with local authorities to ensure the fire is contained. The platform's three oil wells were shut-in at the time of the incident and remain shut-in. Its one gas well was flowing, but was successfully shut-in shortly after the explosion.

Clovelly does not know if any oil was discharged into the lake. The cause of the explosion and fire is unknown. At the time of the incident, routine maintenance was being conducted on the platform.

Clovelly's top priorities are: To protect the safety of all responders and workers on the scene, to locate the missing employee, to render medical care to the injured employees of Clovelly and its contractors and to minimize any impact on the public and to the environment.

Clovelly has activated its emergency response plan, mobilizing equipment and personnel to assess and address the incident and has notified all appropriate state and federal agencies.

Clovelly is cooperating with all federal/state agencies, including the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, under an approved plan.

Pollution and salvage experts are currently en route to the scene.