Search ends for 11 missing oil rig workers off La. - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Search ends for 11 missing oil rig workers off La.

Posted: Updated:
  • RelatedMore>>

  • Burning oil rig sinks, setting stage for big spill

    Burning oil rig sinks, setting stage for big spill

    Thursday, April 22 2010 10:16 AM EDT2010-04-22 14:16:39 GMT
    Thursday, April 22 2010 6:21 PM EDT2010-04-22 22:21:00 GMT
    Officials are saying that the 11 workers missing since an explosion on an oil rig off the Louisiana coast may have been unable to escape the rig when the blast occurred. 
    A deepwater oil platform that burned for more than a day after a massive explosion sank into the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday, creating the potential for a major spill as it underscored the slim chances that the 11 workers still missing survived. 

PORT FOURCHON, La. – The Coast Guard is calling off its search for 11 workers missing since an explosion on an oil rig off the Louisiana coast.

Rear Adm. Mary Landry calls it a very difficult decision.

The Coast Guard said Friday crews had spent three days searching a large area surrounding the rig, but could not find the missing 11. Coast Guard officials searched by air and sea, hoping the workers had made it to a lifeboat after the explosion.

Transocean Ltd. owns the platform. Nearly 100 made it off the Deepwater Horizon safely after Tuesday night's blast. Seventeen others were hurt.

The Coast Guard says it will resume the search if any ships in the area see anything.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Federal regulators did not need this week's explosion aboard a state-of-the-art oil rig to know the offshore drilling industry needed new safety rules: Dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries over the last several years had already convinced them that changes were needed.

The U.S. Minerals and Management Service is developing regulations aimed at preventing human error, which it identified as a factor in many of the more than 1,400 offshore oil drilling accidents between 2001 and 2007.

What caused Tuesday's massive blast off the Louisiana coast is unknown. U.S. Coast Guard and oil-company crews spent Friday trying to clean up the environmental mess created by the sunken rig, and continuing what increasingly appeared to be a futile search for 11 workers missing since the blast. The other 115 crew members made it off the platform, though four were critically hurt.

The rig, the Deepwater Horizon, was the site of a 2005 fire found to have been caused by human error. An MMS investigation determined that a crane operator on the rig had become distracted while refueling the crane, allowing diesel fuel to overflow. Records show the fire was quickly contained, but caused $60,000 in damage to the crane.

An MMS review published last year found 41 deaths and 302 injuries out of 1,443 accidents from 2001 to 2007, the majority of caused by human error and operational and maintenance problems.

As a result of the findings, the MMS is developing new rules that would require rig operators to develop programs focused on preventing human error, an area that hadn't received as much attention in the past. The agency, which has yet to implement the new rules, also proposed audits once every three years.

Environmentalists say that while new technology touted by oil industry executives continues to improve, people still have to oversee those devices and human error remains a widespread problem.

"You can't outlaw human error," Richard Charter, a senior policy adviser with Defenders of Wildlife, who has been involved in drilling issues for 30 years, said of Tuesday's explosion. "It's one of the sidebar issues now emerging for the Horizon incident — these are common incidents and this was just a bigger one."

Opponents of President Barack Obama's plan for more offshore drilling, particularly off the East Coast, say the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon should be taken as a warning to slow the fervor to "drill, baby drill."

"I would hope it would serve as another wake-up call on this issue that there is no such thing as safe oil drilling," said Sara Wan, a member of the California Coastal Commission, a state regulatory agency. "Once that oil starts leaking in the ocean, that damage is irreversible. You just look at what happened with Exxon-Valdez — they're still feeling the effects of it. There's no real way to clean it up."

Obama showed no sign of budging Friday. Spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president still believes increasing domestic oil production can be done safely, securely and without harming the environment.

"I don't honestly think it opens up a whole new series of questions, because, you know, in all honesty I doubt this is the first accident that has happened and I doubt it will be the last," Gibbs said.

BP PLC, which leased the rig and is taking the lead in the cleanup, said it has activated an extensive oil spill response, including using remotely operated vehicles to assess the well and 32 vessels to mop up the spill.

An undetermined amount of oil has spilled from the rig, which is owned by Transocean Ltd. The sheen appeared to cover an area about two miles wide and eight miles long Friday afternoon, said Petty Officer Ashley Butler of the Coast Guard.

Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said no oil appeared to be leaking from a well head at the ocean floor, nor was any leaking at the water's surface. But she said crews were closely monitoring the rig for any more crude that might spill out.

About half a dozen boats were using booms to trap the thin sheen, which extended about seven miles north of the rig site. There was no sign of wildlife being affected; the Louisiana coast is about 50 miles away.

Strong winds were blowing generally from the south as a cold front approached from Texas. The passage of the front late Friday or Saturday was expected to shift winds to the north, which could push the sheen away from the coast. Crews were trying to contain what spilled and prevent any threat to the coast's fragile coastal wetlands — nurseries for fish and shrimp and habitat for birds.

The Marine Spill Response Corp., an energy industry cleanup consortium, brought seven skimmer boats to suck oily water from the surface, four planes that can scatter chemicals to disperse oil, and 500,000 feet — 94.6 miles — of containment boom, a floating barrier with a skirt that drapes down under the water and corrals the oil.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson called for a congressional investigation of safety practices at offshore oil rigs. Nelson, a Florida Democrat who has led opposition to offshore drilling, said he asked the U.S. Interior Department to investigate and provide a comprehensive report on all U.S. drilling accidents over at least the last decade.

"The tragedy off the coast of Louisiana shows we need to be asking a lot more tough questions of big oil," Nelson said. "I think we need to look back over 10 years or so to see if the record denies the industry's claims about safety and technology."

The Coast Guard is leading the investigation into the explosion and was continuing to search for the 11 missing workers late Friday afternoon. Butler said a Coast Guard plane joined a helicopter and a cutter in the search covering roughly 3,000 square miles.

No deadline had been set for calling off the search. "We're not putting a cap on this," Butler said.


Associated Press Writer Noaki Schwartz reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press writers Mike Kunzelman, Cain Burdeau and Alan Sayre in Louisiana contributed to this report.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

Powered by Frankly
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2018 KFMB-TV. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.