Manslaughter charges filed in deadly 2012 oil platform blast

16992343-smallNEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal grand jury indicted two companies on involuntary manslaughter charges and three people also face charges in a deadly 2012 explosion and fire on an oil production platform in the Gulf of Mexico, the Justice Department said Thursday.

Black Elk Energy’s platform was located about 17 miles from Grand Isle, Louisiana, in about 52 feet of water. It had been “shut in” for several weeks and wasn’t producing oil at the time of the blast, but workers were on the platform preparing to resume production.

The blast killed three workers — Avelino Tajonera, Ellroy Corporal and Jerome Malagapo — and injured several others.

“Workers lives can depend on their employer’s faithfulness to the law, not least of all those working in oil and gas production where safety must be a paramount concern,” Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said in a statement provided to The Associated Press.

Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations LLC and Grand Isle Shipyards Inc. were charged with three counts of involuntary manslaughter, as well as eight charges involving federal safety practices under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and one violation of the Clean Water Act.

A third company, Wood Group PSN Inc., and three workers were charged with violating the OCSLA and the Clean Water Act.

On the morning of Nov. 16, 2012, a worker ignited oil vapors while welding pipe, triggering a chain reaction that caused oil tanks to explode and a fire to break out on the platform.

A report a year later by federal regulators identified a string of safety lapses that led to the explosion. Workers failed to take proper safety precautions while performing “hot work,” which includes welding, the report said. Regulators also concluded that Black Elk and its contractors failed to adequately communicate or “establish an effective safety culture” on the platform.

The workers charged are Don Moss, 46, of Groves, Texas; Curtis Dantin, 50, of Cut Off, Louisiana; and Christopher Srubar, 40 of Destrehan, Louisiana.

Srubar, a Wood Group PSN Inc. employee, was supervising production work on the platform. Moss, an employee of Compass Engineering & Consultants LLC, was supervising construction work. Dantin was a supervisor employed by construction contractor Grand Isle Shipyard Inc.

Steven Lemoine, a lawyer for Srubar, declined to comment. Attorneys for Moss and Dantin did not immediately return calls for comment.

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