Eleven people remain unaccounted for after an offshore drilling rig explosion Tuesday night off the coast of southeast Louisiana.  The MODU rig Deepwater Horizon was operating in the Gulf of Mexico and is owned by Transocean and operated under a lease by British Petroleum (BP).  The rig can operate in water depths up to 8,000 feet  and was built in 2001 by Hyundai Heavy Industries Shipyard in South Korea.  A semi-submersible rig is floated to a drilling site.  It has pontoons and a column that submerge when flooded with seawater.  It doesn’t touch the sea floor, but sits low with a large portion of it under water, moored by anchors.

The Coast Guard estimates that 126 crewmembers were working on board the rig at the time of the explosion.  The floating platform could still be seen burning this morning, and there are conflicting reports  of anywhere from 11-15 seamen that are still missing.  At this time, seven offshore workers are known to be critically injured and were taken to hospitals in the Gulf Coast region from Louisiana to Alabama.  Of the injured, three were met by ambulance at the Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans, while two were medevaced to West Jefferson hospital in New Orleans by air ambulance.  Two were flown to Mobile Trauma Center in Mobile, Alabama.  We imagine many, if not all involved will suffer from the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD and/or be dealing with exposure injuries from being in the water.

Most of the crew are Transocean employees, however some of them are BP personnel, consultants, and service workers.  BP spokesman Darren Beaudo said  all BP personnel were safe but he didn’t know how many BP workers had been on the rig.

Transocean, is a Houston, Texas-based company that owns the rig where the oil rig crew members were working.  The cause of the fire remains under investigation.  Plaquemines Parish President, Billy Nungesser was quoted as saying, “We’ve had hurricanes and fires on the rigs, but I can’t remember that we ever had this type of explosion and definitely not on this type of rig.  This is one of the largest, deep water, off-shore drilling rigs.  The rig is leaning badly [and] it may go over sometime today.”

Those on the scene say that there is no estimate of when the fire will be put out but fire boats are fighting the blaze and have been doing so since they got out there.  Photos of the blaze can be seen   on local channel 4’s web site.  The Coast Guard and the Minerals Management Service will work together to investigate possible causes of the accident.  The Coast Guard said a next-of-kin hot line has been set up for family members of workers who might have been working on the rig at the time of the blast. That number is 832-587-8554.

The maritime lawyers of Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers are closely monitoring the situation off of the Louisiana coast.  We are watching for updates on the safety of the crew because some of them may be our former clients.  We have handled MANY cases against Transocean and obtained multi-million dollar settlements in the local Texas BP Explosion cases as well.  Our concern is for the safety of those involved and helping their families find out the whereabouts and conditions of their loved ones.  If there is anything our offshore injury law firm can do to assist someone in need, please email us 24/7 at [email protected] or contact us on this web site.  We have operators standing by to assist you in reaching our lawyers with over 45 YEARS of experience handling offshore rig explosion cases.