$9.5 million in penalties in deadly 2012 oil platform blast

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — An oil industry services company has been ordered to pay $9.5 million in penalties in cases arising from a 2012 offshore platform fire that killed three workers, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

The penalties against Houston-based Wood Group PSN were announced by the U.S. Justice Department in Washington and U.S. attorneys in New Orleans and Lafayette, Louisiana, where civil and criminal cases have been playing out. The penalties followed plea agreements in two criminal cases.

Wood Group was ordered to pay $7 million for falsely reporting that safety inspections had been performed on Gulf of Mexico facilities. Another $1.8 million in penalties are for negligently discharging oil into the gulf. And the company was ordered to pay $700,000 for community service projects.

The November 2012 explosion killed three workers on a platform owned by Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations LLC.

A 2013 report by federal regulators identified a string of safety lapses that led to the blast, which killed Ellroy Corporal, Jerome Malagapo and Avelino Tajonera.

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

In 2015, a grand jury indicted Black Elk, Wood Group, Grand Isle Shipyards and some of the people who worked on the platform on a variety of charges. A judge threw out some of the most serious charges last April but prosecutors’ appeals of that decision are pending.

Black Elk and Grand Isle Shipyards remain charged with manslaughter in the case. Black Elk also faces charges involving regulatory violations of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.

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