Offshore InjuryBlog

Criminal Charges Leveled in 2012 Platform Explosion Case

In 2012, three Filipino construction workers lost their lives in a Black Elk Energy platform explosion. Numerous other workers were injured and the explosion caused a leak of an estimated 480 barrels of oil and water. Now, a federal grand jury is seeking to hold those responsible accountable for their involvement in the fatalities. Just today, the jury indicted two companies on charges of involuntary manslaughter and three workers on other charges related to the platform blast.

Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations LLC and Grand Isle Shipyards Inc. were charged with nine different federal safety violations and three counts of involuntary manslaughter. In addition, Wood Group PSN Inc. and three platform workers have been charged for violations of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and the Clean Water Act.

Negligence & Blatant Violations Cost Lives

On November 16, 2012, just a little over three years ago, oil tanks on the platform exploded and led to a fire breaking out. The incident was believed to be caused by a worker igniting oil vapors while welding pipe—but there was much more to it than that. A string of safety lapses had been the underlying factor that led to the explosion. Workers didn’t take proper safety precautions, Black Elk and contractors failed to create a real culture of safety, and numerous other issues all played a part in the deadly explosion.

Criminal Charges Indicate Serious Violations

In most cases, criminal charges are very rare in offshore accidents. Only when serious and criminal violations of safety measures occur do such matters call for further action by courts. A similar case that brought about criminal charges was the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which involved 11 fatalities.

The Black Elk charges came about after a federal investigation led by the safety bureau and the Coast Guard revealed serious safety concerns. The investigation shed light on the fact that failure to follow proper precautions was prevalent. They also found that workers did not speak up about such blatant occurrences because they feared losing their jobs.

Jason Itkin of the firm is representing Renato Dominguez, a Filipino pipe fitter who was injured during this blast. Our client’s medical complications continued into this year due to his severe burns from the blast. We hope that the serious manslaughter charges in this case are effective in holding those responsible accountable for their criminal behavior.

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