Sheriff: Body of missing platform worker recovered

Sheriff: Body of missing platform worker recovered
Published: Oct. 16, 2017 at 8:33 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 20, 2017 at 5:41 PM CDT
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KENNER, LA (WVUE) - Jefferson Parish Interim Sheriff Joe Lopinto said the body of a worker who disappeared after a platform explosion Oct. 15 in Lake Pontchartrain has been recovered. A helicopter crew spotted the body of Timothy Morrison about 3 miles west of the Jefferson Parish-St. Charles Parish line

Lopinto said the coroner will conduct an autopsy, and the body will then be turned over to the victim's family.

Platform owner Clovelly Oil released the following statement:

"There are no words to adequately express the grief that all of us at Clovelly feel.  We extend our deepest condolences to the Morrison family. We also want to thank the JPSO and all other agencies that participated in the search,  for their diligence in making the recovery and helping to provide some measure of closure in this tragic situation."

The platform explosion and fire has put new focus on oil and gas activity in the lake that few people knew anything about, and we've learned more about  Clovelly Oil, which has an office in New Orleans

"I had no clue. I've been living here for 31 years," said Arnoldo Vanegas of Kenner.

Clovelly Oil's platform is one of nearly 20 platforms in Lake Pontchartrain and served as a hub collecting oil and gas from other nearby platforms.

"This is probably not a big cash producer, but it's still positive." said Eric Smith with the Tulane Energy Institute.

Clovelly operates 12 active wells across the state. The Environmental Protection Agency found the company in non-compliance for the first half of this year because EPA documents show the agency never received a discharge monitoring report from the first quarter. But the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources says as far as they're concerned, there are no problems.

"They are in our records, and  so far, they are pretty clean," said Patrick Courreges with the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources.

Clovelly Oil issued a statement saying three of their employees were injured. They say the other four injured worked for two contractors doing work on the platform at the time of the fire.

"What was burning was natural gas, and gas condensate collected in tanks on the platform," said Smith.

The Clovelly platform that caught fire was receiving oil and gas from three other wells. They were the last active wells on Lake Pontchartrain since a moratorium went in place back in 1991.

"You're not allowed to drill any new wells, but you can to continue to produce," said Smith.

Oil cleanup equipment was on standby at the Kenner boat launch, but few expect any major environmental impacts.

"The fire burned itself out once the supply of fuel was spent out," said Smith.

Clovelly says the cause of the first at this point is not known. They released the following statement:

"Clovelly is an established company that has been in the business of oil and gas since the 1970's. We have a relatively small number of employees; we know one another well and we care about one another and about our contracted employees.  This has been a very sad day for all of us.  We have taken the position that, out of respect for the dignity of those who were injured and their families, it is not our place to release their names. It is our understanding that one or more of the regulatory agencies or the Sheriff's office  intend to do so. We can say that four people injured in this incident have been released from the hospital(s), one is still missing, and three are still being treated at area hospitals.  While the cause of the accident is under investigation, we can say that routine maintenance was being conducted on the platform and the flow lines that feed it, specifically cleaning of paraffin from flow lines using steam.  Lines from 2 wells had been successfully cleaned and personnel were in the process of cleaning the third (of 3) when the incident occurred. The 3 oil wells were shut in before the cleaning. Clovelly also operated a fourth gas well, which was also shut in immediately after the explosion."

Following are the victims injured in the explosion:

Brent Neil (52) Houma, LA (released)

Paul Phister (52) Mandeville, LA (released)

Cody Boudreaux (23) Chavin LA (discharged)

Alvin Kimbrel (55)  Belle Chasse LA (burn unit)

James Bordelon (62) Laplace LA (University)

Lawrence Dufrene (45) Marrero La. (burn unit)

Davin Billiot, (27) Houma La.  (discharged)

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