The fire begun while workers were using a torch to cut an oil line, AP reports. The fire critically injured at least four workers who had burns over much of their bodies.
BLACK ELK'S CEO, John Hoffman, said to ABC News that the wrong tool was used in cutting the line. Contract workers should have used a saw instead of a torch, which caught vapors and caused the blast.
A sheen of oil about a half-mile long and 200 yards wide was reported on the Gulf surface, but officials believe it came from residual oil on the platform.
More than half of the workers on the platform were contracted through a Louisiana company called Grand Isle Shipyard, headquartered in Galliano. Fourteen of the 22 workers involved in the explosion were either employees or subcontractors of the Louisiana company, according to WWLTV.com.
Eleven people were taken by helicopter to area hospitals or for treatment on shore by emergency medical workers.
Taslin Alfonzo, spokeswoman for West Jefferson Medical Center in suburban New Orleans, said to Associated Press that four injured workers arrived in critical condition with second- and third-degree burns over much of their bodies.
The production platform owned by Houston-based Black Elk Energy is about 25 miles southeast of Grand Isle, on the western side of the Mississippi River delta. The Coast Guard said 24 people were aboard the platform at the time of the fire.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with those who are impacted. We have Black Elk personnel on the scene and en route. We are still collecting information at this time. We will release a statement this afternoon when we have more details," Black Elk Energy says in a statement on their website.
"It's a terrible day," said John Hoffman, the CEO of Black Elk Energy, according to WWLTV.com. "When something like this happens, it tears at everyone's heart."
Searching with response boats
The Coast Guard says it is currently searching with response boats from Coast Guard Stations Grand Isle and Venice, the 87-foot Coast Guard Cutters Pelican and Razorbill, an HC-144 Ocean Sentry fixed-wing aircraft crew and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Aviation Training Center Mobile, Ala., and an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Air Station New Orleans.
The cause of the incident is under investigation by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the Coast Guard will assist as needed.