Saturday, October 14, 2006

Barge explosion death toll mounts: Kenneth J. Rink, 51, of Berwick; John J. Mire Jr., 59, of Patterson; and Terry Abraham, 36

The Pueblo Chieftain Online

October 17, 2006 Coast Guard Calls Off Search for Pipeline Explosion Victims

A crane on the deck of a barge is blackened by the fire that erupted after a pipeline explosion in West Cote Blanche Bay on Thursday about 100 miles southwest of New Orleans.

CYPREMORT POINT - The death toll in Thursday's natural gas explosion in West Cote Blanche Bay climbed to four Friday and is expected to result in a total of six dead, officials said.

Local authorities on Friday continued their search for the missing, now deemed a "recovery effort" while federal authorities investigated the reasons behind the explosion that occurred when a tugboat carrying two barges struck an underwater gas pipeline.

Gas flow was shut off to the pipeline, but Coast Guard Lt. Rick Foster said there was still concern of another explosion if some gas remained in the line. Divers were to examine the site to determine whether a "spud" from one of the barges -- a metal extension used to halt the vessel -- might have pinched the pipeline, Foster said. The barge was still in place at the site.

The tugboat captain was found dead late Thursday in the wheelhouse of the boat, and search crews found the body of a fourth man Friday morning floating about 2 miles from the scene of the accident, said Iberia Parish Sheriff Sid Hebert.

Two crew members survived — one with burns and one without injury — and two other crew members remained missing as of sunset Friday.


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