Blaze injures 4 after barge strikes bayou pipeline near New Orleans
March 14, 2013, 11:44 am TWN
LAFITTE, Louisiana -- A tug boat pushing an oil barge struck a gas pipeline in a bayou south of New Orleans on Tuesday night, igniting a blaze that burned for hours and left four people injured, one severely.
Ensign Tanner Stiehl told The Associated Press the collision occurred at about 6 p.m. Central on Bayou Perot, in a marshy area about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of New Orleans.
The tugboat and barge were engulfed in flames, and heavy smoke billowed from the scene.
"All crew members were able to exit the tug; the captain reportedly suffered second to third-degree degree burns," the Coast Guard said in a news release early Wednesday.
WWL-TV reported that all four people on the vessel were accounted for, but that one person was severely burned and was being treated at West Jefferson Medical Center. The station reported the person, identified as the captain of the tug, was transferred to the burn center at Baton Rouge General Hospital.
Stiehl said the pipeline is owned by Chevron. It was in shallow water and had liquid petroleum gas in it.
He said the company has isolated the pipeline from other mains, "so only whatever was in the pipeline will be able to burn."
Stiehl said the barge was carrying oil and "there have been reports of oil in the water." The Coast Guard said ES&H has been hired to handle the oil spill response.
It was not immediately known who owns the 154-foot (47-meter) oil barge.
"The Coast Guard is working with federal, state and local agencies in response to this incident to ensure the safety of responders and contain and clean up any oil that is leaking," the news release said.
Stiehl identified the 47-foot (14-meter) tug boat as the Shanon E. Settoon. Settoon Towing of Pierre Part, Louisiana, lists the tug boat among its vessels on its website.
Stiehl said no one lives near the site of the fire, so no evacuations were ordered.
Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts, who represents the area, told WWL-TV that the fire was in very shallow water, as little as a foot deep, and that authorities would not approach the site until the fire had burned itself out.
It was unclear how long the blaze would take to burn out, permitting authorities to approach the site.
The area is along the northern reaches of Barataria Bay, which was heavily affected by oil from the BP spill in 2010. It is mostly small communities where people often make their living from the sea, either working in the oil and gas industry or as fishermen.
The region is crisscrossed by pipelines and wellheads are a common sight in the shallow waters of the bayou and bay shoreline.