Rig burning off excess gas as crews continue to search for missing worker

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KENNER - The US Coast Guard searched the waters of Lake Pontchartrain throughout the night to find a missing worker after a natural gas rig exploded near Kenner last night.

The explosion occurred around 7 p.m. on October 15, reportedly rattling homes as far away as Destrehan.

As of 7 a.m., Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto said the rig was still burning.

“It’s not a Deepwater Horizon where there’s oil pumping into the lake,” Lopinto said. “There wasn’t any last night. There was residual oil that was on the rig itself that we’re allowing to burn out, but it doesn’t appear to be a huge environmental issue.”

Contractors will go out at daybreak to complete a more thorough inspection and to begin cleaning up from the explosion, Lopinto said.

Despite some initial confusion about the number of rig workers, officials have determined that one worker remains unaccounted for.

“That family has been notified now, and we’re trying to make sure whether that person was still on the rig or whether that person was blown from the rig, that we can offer any assistance that we can,” he said.

Inspectors haven’t yet been able to board the rig for a close inspection, Lopinto said.

“There’s been a presence the entire night on the search and rescue mission,” he said. “There is a fire boat that is on standby. The safest thing to do now is to allow the fire to burn itself out, so no water is being pumped on it, but that’s protocol.”

Lopinto urged local residents to stay away from the area, adding that the Williams Boulevard Boat Launch has been closed so emergency crews can use it as a staging ground for the search effort.

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