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Companies, Workers Charged in 2012 Platform Explosion

The November 2012 explosion of an offshore oil production platform in waters off Louisiana has resulted in manslaughter and other charges against the companies and some of the individuals involved, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said Thursday.

Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations LLC and its contractor Grand Isle Shipyards Inc. are charged with three counts of involuntary manslaughter, eight counts of failing to follow proper safety practices under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) and one count of violating the Clean Water Act (CWA).

Wood Group PSN Inc. as well as Don Moss of Groves, TX; Curtis Dantin of Cut-Off, LA; and Christopher Srubar of Destrehan, LA, are charged with felony violations of OCSLA and CWA.

According to the indictment, the defendants were involved in different capacities while construction work was being done on the West Delta 32 platform when it exploded, resulting in the death of three workers, injury of others and an oil spill (see Daily GPINov. 19, 2012).

The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Interior Office of Inspector General and the Environmental Protection Agency's Criminal Investigations Division (see Daily GPIAug. 17, 2015Nov. 4, 2013Aug. 22, 2013). The explosion was found to have been caused by a spark during welding when proper safety procedures were not followed.

OCSLA and federal regulations govern welding and activities that generate heat or sparks, known as "hot work," on oil production platforms in U.S. waters, DOJ said. "Because this work can be hazardous and cause explosions, regulations mandate specific precautions that must be taken before the work can commence.

"For instance, before hot work can be performed, pipes and tanks that had contained hydrocarbons must be isolated from the work or purged of hydrocarbons. Gas detectors and devices used to prevent gas from traveling through pipes must be used. According to the indictment, these safety precautions were not followed and an explosion causing the deaths of three men and a spill resulted."

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