Body Believed to Be Missing Worker Found Near Site of Oil Rig Blast

Divers recovered remains of an unidentified person Saturday night.

ByABC News
November 18, 2012, 11:34 AM

Nov. 18, 2012— -- A body believed to be one of the workers missing since an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded was recovered late last night in the water near the platform.

A private dive team hired by Houston-based Black Elk Energy found the remains of an unidentified person Saturday night, U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Carlos Vega said.

The Coast Guard has suspended its search, but John Hoffman, president and CEO of Black Elk Energy, which owns the platform, vowed to continue looking for the second worker.

"The workers impacted by this accident continue to be our primary focus," Hoffman wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

The two workers jumped from the burning platform into the Gulf of Mexico after their oil rig exploded off the coast of Louisiana Friday.

The Coast Guard had been working for more than 24 hours to find the rig workers, whose names and genders have not been released. Air and sea units searched for what they believed would be two survivors.

But on Saturday night, the search was suspended.

The rig was not producing oil on Friday morning when the explosion occurred. Black Hawk Energy, which owns the platform, said one of 22 contractors on board mistakenly grabbed a blow torch instead of a saw to cut a pipe line that had 28 gallons of oil inside, igniting the blast. Everyone on board was employed by Grand Isle Shipyard, not Black Elk.

Of the 11 injured workers who were air-lifted to safety, four had severe burns. No deaths have been reported.

The rig had been expected to begin oil production again later this month. Because the rig was offline, the Coast Guard said there is little risk of a major spill.

"The environmental threat as we know, there were 28 gallons that potentially were in that 3-inch line, 75 feet long, which would equate to 28 gallons of product," said Ed Cubanski, chief of the U.S. Coast Guard response.

As of Friday evening, an oil sheen spread to half a square mile from the 28 gallons, which is less than what an SUV gas tank might hold.

The Louisiana explosion is a reminder of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill about 85 miles away, which made headlines this week when BP agreed to a $4.5 billion settlement and two BP officials were charged with manslaughter. But that spill amounted to 210 million gallons, and resulted in 11 deaths.