Black Elk Energy|Charged in Oil Rig Fire

     HOUSTON (CN) – Federal prosecutors brought criminal charges against Black Elk Energy for a November 2012 platform explosion and fire that killed three workers.
     The six-count indictment alleges Black Elk, a Houston company, is to blame for the Nov. 16, 2012 explosion on its Gulf of Mexico platform, 20 miles out from Port Fourchon, Louisiana, which killed three Filipino workers.
     Prosecutors say the platform was part of Black Elk’s three-platform complex called the West Delta 32 facility and the company shut down operations there on Sept. 1, 2012 to repair pipes.
     Part of the work involved installing a valve on an oil storage unit and tying it to a sump pump line, prosecutors claim in the indictment they filed in a New Orleans federal court.
     The feds claim Black Elk hired a contractor, called “Company ‘B'” in the indictment, and the contractor’s supervisor was tasked with overseeing its workers and those of a third-party subcontractor. “The sub-contracted employees were from the Philippines,” the indictment states.
     On the morning of Nov. 16, the crew cut the sump pump line leading to the oil tank, the feds say. “The construction superintendent observed the spill, but did not stop the work. He left the area and returned to the office located on another platform within the West Delta 32 facility,” the charging document states.
     Prosecutors say not stopping the job was a critical error because a few hours later the crew tried to weld on the cut pipe and oil vapors ignited. “The ignition caused an explosion setting off a series of additional explosions on the platform,” the charging document states.
     The explosions spilled 480 barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and “oil rained down on the lower deck of the platform” onto workers and sparked a fire, the feds says.
     “As a result of the explosions, Avelino Tajonera, Elroy Corporal and Jerome Malagapo died. Other workers were burned and injured,” the Aug. 11 indictment states.
     Prosecutors charged Black Elk Energy with five violations of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and one violation of the Clean Water Act.
     An investigation commissioned by Black Elk blamed the explosion on contractors, the Houston Chronicle reported.

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