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Major Offshore Accidents of the 20th and 21st Century

Fires and explosions that occur on oil rigs are some of the most devastating types of offshore accidents that can ever occur. The injuries and property damage that can be sustained from an incident of this nature are extreme and can result in long-term consequences. Unfortunately, over the years, these have not been an unheard of occurrence. Below, you will find some of the largest oil rig fires and explosions that have occurred in the 20th and 21st century.

January 28, 1969
In January of 1969, Union Oil began drilling a fifth oil well on their offshore Platform A, just over five miles from the coast of Santa Barbara, CA. On the morning of the 28th, drilling stopped for well evaluation. At 10:45 a.m., the well blew out, leaking oil and gas. A second blow out in a different well followed on February 24th. Clean up efforts were not yet honed and some areas of the nearby California coastline were affected for years. The disaster ultimately led to stricter environmental restrictions on offshore activity.

June 3, 1979
Mexico's government-owned oil company, Pemex, used a semi-submersible drilling rig to create Ixtoc I, an exploratory oil well 62 miles off the coast of Campeche, Mexico. On the morning of June 3, the well experienced a blowout, initially leaking 30,000 barrels of oil into the gulf each day. Though various efforts were undertaken to lessen the amount of leakage, the spill was not contained until March of 1980.

March 27, 1980
Phillips Petroleum was employing the Alexander L. Kielland semi-submersible drilling rig as living quarters for off duty workers in the Norwegian North Sea. On the morning of the 27th, a bad storm with high winds snapped all six anchor cables, causing the platform to overturn and capsize. 123 of the 212 men on board were killed.

February 15, 1982
Mobil Oil's Ocean Ranger semi-submersible drilling unit was drilling an exploration well 166 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. A sudden Atlantic cyclone on the 14th leaves the crew little time to properly prepare the vessel. The ship begins to list in the early morning hours of the 15th, and the crew decided to abandon ship. Rescue efforts were disastrous; the unit sank and all 84 crewmembers were killed.

August 16 1984 and April 24, 1988
Petrobas' Enchova drilling platform, operating in the Campos Basin near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil experienced its first disaster in 1984, when a blowout on the morning of August 16 led to an explosion and fire. 42 workers died in the evacuation, including 36 who fell from a lifeboat when its mechanism failed. Less than four years later, in April of 1988, the well suffered a gas blowout while being converted from oil to gas. Drill pipe was forced out of the well and struck a platform leg, causing sparks to ignite gas. The resulting fire burned for 31 days, but the platform was abandoned without casualty.

July 6, 1988
Occidental Petroleum's Piper Alpha oil production platform exploded in the North Sea, after a series of malfunctioning parts and a small gas leak ignited under pressure. Eventually, the pipeline connecting Piper to the Claymore Platform burst and the Piper slipped into the sea. Of the 224 crewmembers, 165 were killed and two rescue vessel crewmen also perished. Only 59 individuals survived. At the time of the accident, the Piper was contributing approximately 10% of the North Sea's oil and gas production. The financial losses resulting in its destruction total approximately 3.4 billion US dollars.

November 3, 1989
Typhoon Gay overtook the Seacrest, a drilling ship belonging to UNOCAL (which merged with Chevron in 2005.) The Seacrest capsized and floated for several days on the surface before sinking. 91 of the 97 crewmembers were killed.

March 20, 2001
Petrobas' P-36 oil platform, the largest semi-submersible in the world at the time, experienced two back-to-back explosions. 11 of the 175 workers were killed. After the explosions, the platform began to list, finally sinking five days later.

July 27, 2005
A multi-purpose support vessel crashed into Indian government owned Mumbai High North platform. An explosion and massive fire resulted. The platform was evacuated and completely destroyed within two hours. Twenty two of the 384 workers onboard were killed.

August 21, 2009
Oil began to leak from Seadrill's West Atlas rig in the Timor sea off the coast of Western Australia. All workers were evacuated, but the resulting oil slick spreads over 2300 square miles of water, killing marine life in affected areas. The leak was not plugged until November 1st.

April 20, 2010
BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded off the coast of Louisiana and burned for 36 hours before sinking. 11 crewmembers died and more were seriously injured. Environmental damage and damages to the surrounding Gulf shore communities was extensive and it is considered one of the worst environmental disasters of all time. Offshore injury attorneys from Arnold & Itkin represented 27 of the crewmembers.

September 2, 2010
Mariner Energy's Vermillion Oil Rig 380 exploded off the coast of Louisiana, just 200 miles east of the sight where the Deepwater Horizon tragedy occurred. All 13 crewmembers were rescued by a supply ship. None were seriously injured.

January 16, 2012
Chevron Nigeria Limited oil rig experienced an explosion six miles off the coast of the African nation. Fire was still burning three days later. As of January 20, 2012, two workers were still missing and presumed dead. Fish were dying in large numbers and coastal residents were scared to eat living marine animals as they may have been contaminated.

Contact an offshore accident attorney today!

Offshore injuries like the ones that occur in rig explosions can result in devastating consequences for injured workers, their families and residents impacted by the environmental damage. Fortunately, special laws protect individuals injured while working offshore. An offshore injury attorney from Arnold & Itkin can help you or your loved one understand the laws that protect you and can help you secure compensation for your injuries, lost wages and more. Call today to learn more!

Contact a maritime injury lawyer from Arnold & Itkin today for your free consultation.

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