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Coast Guard: Body found near burned Gulf oil rig

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Divers hired by the owner of an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico that caught fire recovered a body in the waters near the site Saturday evening, according to the U.S. Coast Guard and the rig's owner.

Coast Guard spokesman Carlos Vega said late Saturday that the remains of the unidentified person were found by divers hired by Houston-based Black Elk Energy, who were inspecting the platform. Vega said the Coast Guard would be turning over the remains to local authorities.

John Hoffman, the president and CEO of Black Elk Energy, wrote in an email late Saturday that the body is apparently that of one of two crew members missing since an explosion and fire on the oil platform Friday morning. Hoffman said the body was found by a contract dive vessel at 5:25 p.m. CST.

"Divers will continue to search for the second missing worker," Hoffman wrote. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families."

Hoffman said the body was found close to the leg of the platform, near where the explosion occurred, in about 30 feet of water. He said the missing men were employees of oilfield contractor Grand Isle Shipyard.

"We have notified next of kin of all individuals involved, but in respect for their families and their privacy, we will not be releasing their names," GIS CEO Mark Pregeant said in a statement, according to WWL-TV in New Orleans.

The news came shortly after the Coast Guard suspended a 32-hour-long search for the two missing workers that covered 1,400 square miles (3626 sq. kilometers) near the oil platform, located about 20 miles (40 kilometers) southeast of Grand Isle, La.

"We have saturated the search area several times — the 1400-square-foot area," Vega said. "We saw no signs of life. We have suspended the search... pending further development. If we receive any credible information that there are signs of life, we can resume the search at any time."

Four other workers who were severely burned remained at Baton Rouge General Medical Center on Saturday night.

Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Bobby Nash said the Guard's search was ended early Saturday evening. Helicopters and a fixed-wing aircraft had been searching by air, while cutters and boat crews searched the sea.

The blaze erupted Friday morning while workers were using a torch to cut an oil line on the platform, authorities said.

Pregeant stressed in his statement that the cause of the fire and explosion is unknown, and said "initial reports that a welding torch was being used at the time of the incident or that an incorrect line was cut are completely inaccurate."

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This aerial photograph shows damage from an explosion and fire on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, about 25 miles southeast of Grand Isle, La., Friday, Nov. 16, 2012.

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