Lake Pontchartrain, NO – Rescue teams are searching by air and water for a contractor who disappeared when an oil and gas platform exploded on a lake near New Orleans. Seven people were injured, including three who were in critical condition, authorities said.
The Coast Guard reported that a fire aboard the structure was out by midday and there were no signs of pollution visible from the air. A Coast Guard helicopter, along with Coast Guard vessels and boats from local agencies, continued looking for the missing worker.
The Clovelly Oil Co. platform exploded Sunday night while maintenance was being done on the structure, sending a fireball high into the night sky, authorities and company officials said. The Kenner government Facebook page said authorities on the scene reported that cleaning chemicals had ignited on the structure, but the company said the cause of the blast was unknown. Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto said the cause remained under investigation.
Residents along the shores of the lake said their homes shook about 7:15 p.m. Some reported that the air smelled of burning rubber.
Initially, officials cautioned that oil could leak into Lake Pontchartrain, but the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Coast Guard stated today that they do not see evidence of environmental issues, so far and that no oil sheen has surfaced.
Lake Pontchartrain is a brackish body of water that is about 12-14 feet deep, though some shipping channels are dredged deeper, and covers 630 square miles to the north of New Orleans. Clovelly Oil uses the structure for transferring oil. It is possible that oil is still leaking into the lake, though this will not affect local drinking water, which is sourced from the Mississippi River.