NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Criminal charges filed recently against a Houston company over a 2012 offshore oil platform fire that killed three workers appear headed for a resolution.
Neither federal prosecutors nor defense lawyers for Black Elk Energy Operations would comment Friday on whether plea talks are underway. But on Thursday, a federal judge set three proceedings for the morning of Oct. 20: an initial appearance, an arraignment and then a re-arraignment listed on the docket as a change-of-plea hearing.
Black Elk was charged with six criminal counts alleging violations of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and the Clean Water Act in connection with the November 2012 fire off Louisiana's coast. The charges were not brought by a grand jury. They were made in a bill of information filed by prosecutors — typically a sign that a defendant is cooperating.
The charges allege that Black Elk failed to comply with federal safety regulations on the platform, where welding work ignited vapors, causing a series of explosions.
Three Filipino workers died in the Nov. 16, 2012, fire, which occurred at a time when production was shut down and a construction project was underway on the platform, according to a 2013 consultant's report.
The fixed production platform where the explosion occurred was roughly 17 miles southeast of Grand Isle, in 52 feet of water.
Civil suits have been filed against Black Elk in state and federal courts by injured workers and families of the victims.