Authorities have stopped searching for a man who went missing after an oil rig exploded on Sunday in a Louisiana lake
The Coast Guard suspended the search for 44-year-old Timothy Morrison just after 7 p.m. Monday, a full 24 hours after the blast in Lake Pontchartrain, off Kenner, La., just west of New Orleans. Eight people, including Morrison, were aboard the offshore platform when it exploded. Seven made it to shore and were taken to local hospitals with burns, authorities said.
“The decision to suspend a search is never an easy one,” Coast Guard Cmdr. Zac Ford said in a statement. “We send our thoughts and prayers to the Morrison family and all those affected by this incident.”
Officials are still investigating the cause, though they said cleaning chemicals ignited on the surface of the oil rig platform. The owner of the platform, Clovelly Oil Co. Inc., hired a Houston subcontractor to clean the platform’s pipes, authorities said.
The platform, located in an unincorporated part of Jefferson Parrish, is used to transfer oil from wells in the area. It burned through the night Sunday, as fire crews worked to stop any flow of oil into the rig, said East Bank Consolidated Fire Department Chief Dave Tibbetts. The fire was under control by Monday morning.
Five of the injured suffered “blast-type injuries and burns,” Mike Guillot, director of East Jefferson Emergency Medical Services, told reporters Sunday. By Monday morning, three remained in the hospital, one still in the intensive care unit. The other four have been discharged.
Three of those injured were employees of Clovelly Oil, the company said in a statement. The others, including Morrison, worked for contractors. Morrison was a resident of Katy, Tex., west of Houston.
In a statement to KHOU in Houston, Morrison’s family described him as a “beloved father, husband, brother, and friend.”
Officials acknowledged that oil may have leaked into Lake Pontchartrain, but Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni told reporters that residents’ drinking water comes from the Mississippi River, which was untouched by the explosion.
Resident Roger Fernandez, who said he lives just two blocks from the lake, ran out of his home after the blast “shook me out of my couch.”
A Facebook Live video he shared at about 8:30 p.m. Sunday shows a massive fire amid a sea of black.
“If you heard a big explosion in North Kenner, there’s an oil rig . . . that blew up. It’s still popping and flaming away . . . I’m just hoping there’s no one on that oil rig,” Fernandez can be heard saying in the video.
Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn said there’s no indication that the explosion has or will damage nearby houses. He said the blast startled residents, and some reported hearing pebbles raining on their homes.
“My house actually shook,” resident Andrew Love told the Times Picayune. “At first I thought it was a sonic boom or something. I had no idea what was happening.”