Three Blast Victims Identified; Search Now a 'Recovery Effort'

Three of the four victims of Thursday's pipeline accident in West Cote Blanche Bay have been identified.

They are Kenneth J. Rink, 51, of Berwick; John J. Mire Jr., 59, of Patterson; and Terry Abraham, 36. Rink was the operator of the boat, Mire was a crane operator, and Abraham was a rigger, who joined the company July 10. The fourth victim is believed to have been the tugboat captain, the lone occupant of the vessel when the explosion occurred. His name has not been released.

Two of those rescued also have been identified. They are Rocky Lewis, who was taken to Iberia General Hospital to be treated for burns, and Brian Dumesnil, 26, of Franklin.

The two missing men are believed to be Cleveland Tardy, 28, and Albert Davis Jr., 33.

Iberia Parish Sheriff Sid Hebert is now referring to the search as a "recovery effort" after crews with the Department of Environmental Quality and Louisiana State Police HAZMAT that inspected the barge found no survivors. It was believed the workers might have headed to the lower decks after the explosion to escape the fire.

A dive team is in the water inspecting the pipeline. Earlier, crews inspected the barges and found no damage to the hulls. Depending on the condition of the pipeline, both the barges could be moved as early as this afternoon or by Saturday.

The National Transportation and Safety Board has sent a team of five investigators to the scene.

According to a release from NTSB, Thursday's accident seems to be the result of a piling that dropped from one of the barges and struck a submerged high-pressure gas line, causing the line to rupture and catch fire.

Other reports have indicated that a "spud" -- an anchoring system on the barge -- may have struck the gas line when it fell off its pins or when crew members detached it.

The boat was traveling in water estimated to be 7 feet deep and roughly two and a half miles offshore.

The NTSB will conduct a joint investigation with the U.S. Coast Guard.

The workers on the barge were employed by Athena Construction Co., a subsidiary of Diamondback Energy Services. The workers' services had been contracted by Gulfport Energy Corp. in Oklahoma City. Gulfport also owns the pipeline that was struck.

Athena is a general oilfield contractor based in Morgan City. The company constructs and installs oilfield facilities and pipelines, and conducts demolition and pile-driving work and general oilfield maintenance.

Each of Athena's eight barges has a crane or bulldozer on board and is typically assigned two to six crew members.

Diamondback is a privately owned oilfield-service company, based in Oklahoma City. It operates in four business segments: drilling technology, stimulation-pressure pumping, fluid logistics and completion-production services.

Representatives of Diamondback said the crew was working in the area but not on the pipeline that exploded. Officials from all of the companies involved are on the scene and are assisting with the investigation.