Officials back off statement of second blast

PORT FOURCHON, LA (WAFB) - The Coast Guard retracted a statement that a second explosion occurred before the Deepwater Horizon oil platform sank off the Louisiana coast Thursday.

The Louisiana Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness earlier said a second explosion at the rig happened just before the platform sunk.

Officials said the incident has the potential to be a major spill. The announcement came during a news conference Thursday in which officials also said the 11 missing workers might have been unable to escape the rig when the blast occurred.

Adrian Rose, Vice President of Transocean, said when some of the workers who survived were interviewed, they said their missing colleagues might not have been able to evacuate in time. Crews have been searching by air and water for the missing workers, though one relative said family members have been told it's unlikely anyone survived.

Officials had previously said the environmental damage appeared minimal, but when the rig sank, their outlook changed. The Coast Guard said the oil platform carried 700,000 gallons of diesel fuel and could spill as much as 8,000 barrels of crude a day.

President Barack Obama is making sure the federal government is behind the rescue and response efforts. He ordered agencies to devote their resources to help out.

According to the Associated Press, a lawsuit has been filed claiming the companies involved in the explosion were negligent. It was filed in New Orleans on behalf of a Mississippi man who worked on the rig and is one of the people still missing. The lawsuit stated Shane Roshto of Amite County, MS was thrown overboard in the Tuesday night explosion and is feared dead.

The nearly $600 million rig is owned by Transocean Ltd. and was under contract to oil giant BP. Both are defendants in the lawsuit. A Transocean spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment and BP wouldn't discuss the suit.

Family members of explosion survivors anxiously waited Wednesday night to be reunited with their loved ones (view photos). The Coast Guard reported a boat carrying 94 survivors arrived in Port Fourchon around 1:20 a.m. None of them suffered major injuries.

Rescue crews in boats circled the Gulf overnight searching for those still missing and hundreds of emergency personnel are still working to put out the flames from the explosion and fire. Of the 126 workers on the Deepwater Horizon when it was rocked by the huge explosion, 115 escaped. Of those, 17 were hurt, four critically.

"No, we don't have any idea where the 11 people who are unaccounted for are at this time, but we're going to continue to search," said Rear Admiral Mary Landry of the U.S. Coast Guard. "The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries did provide some support to the U.S. Coast Guard," said Pat Santos, deputy director of the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. "We have two 32-footers helping search right now in the search and rescue."

According to Santos, because the explosion happened in federal waters, the state has limited reach in the efforts. However, officials are offering all available resources.

"We have been helping situational awareness down in Plaquemines Parish down near Venice, where a lot of survivors are being flown into hospitals," Santos explained.

The explosion happened off the southern tip of Louisiana, just over 50 miles offshore. The platform of the Deepwater Horizon is 36 feet longer and nearly 100 feet wider than a football field. It was basically floating on large pontoons with anchors dropped nearly 5,000 feet down to hold it in place.

"Preliminary information suggests that this rig went into service in January of this year and there have been three inspections already of the rig this year," said Deputy Secretary David Hayes of the U.S. Department of the Interior. "The latest was within the month."

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