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Fatal Black Elk oil rig fire reminds Texans of Deepwater Horizon disaster

For those people living in Corpus Christi and other areas in Texas on the Gulf of Mexico, news of an oil rig fire off the coast leads to real and immediate concerns. In the years since the Deepwater Horizon incident, the cause for alarm has been particularly heightened. Just one day after it was announced that BP would pay the largest criminal penalty in history – $4.5 billion – due to the Deepwater Horizon accident, another incident occurred in the Gulf. In late November 2012, a fire broke out on a Black Elk oil platform.

The fire reportedly started when a torch was used to cut an oil line. The ensuing fire resulted in many workers being badly burned and sustaining other personal injuries. In total, 11 workers were transported by helicopter to nearby hospitals following the fire. Tragically, three of the workers died and another three sustained severe injuries.

While smaller in scope, the Black Elk fire has led many to recall the Deepwater Horizon incident that occurred on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Comparing the Black Elk and Deepwater Horizon incidents

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Black Elk incident resulted in the most fatalities caused by an offshore incident since the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 workers.

The Deepwater Horizon incident resulted in a fire that burned for 36 hours. In the wake of the fire, the oil rig sunk to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. As the rig had been drilling in deep waters, when it settled at the bottom of the Gulf it was approximately one mile below the surface. Consequently, stopping the oil leak from the rig posed significant problems for those attempting to manage the disaster.

Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations LLC, the company operating the oil rig, focuses on drilling in shallower waters in the Gulf. The platform on which the fire broke out was located in an area with depths of around 56 feet. In addition, the fire on the Black Elk rig burned for a significantly shorter amount of time than the Deepwater Horizon – it was extinguished within a matter of hours. Nevertheless, following the incident, observers noted that oil could be seen on the surface of the water in an area approximately 200 yards by one-half mile.

The Aftermath of the Black Elk incident

Since the fire occurred, the Wall Street Journal has reported that Black Elk was facing financial difficulties in the months leading up to the accident. In addition, the company has faced numerous penalties due to safety violations in the years since the Deepwater Horizon incident. Since 2010, Black Elk has had 315 serious violations that led to federal citations. Just months before the fire, the company was ordered to pay a $307,000 penalty for failing to meet safety standards. Even worse, just one month before the incident, Black Elk received citations for a total of 45 violations.

Injuries suffered after an oil rig fire can be severe and life-changing. If you or a loved one has faced such injuries, consult with an experienced Corpus Christi personal injury attorney to ensure your rights are protected.