A crew member remains missing and another was tragically killed following a barge explosion and fire off the coast of Port Aransas, Texas on October 17, 2017.
Oil barge B255 was under tow by the Buster Bouchard, about 3 miles off Port Aransas, when an explosion occurred at its fore peak around 4:30 a.m.
The tug was pulling up anchor at the time. The U.S. Coast Guard Sector in Corpus Christi received a mayday from the tug’s captain at approximately 4:35 a.m., reporting that the barge was on fire and that two crew were unaccounted for.
The vessel’s six other crew members were able to escape to safety.
Responders had extinguished the fire by Friday afternoon.
Crew Member’s Body Recovered from Padre Island on October 20
The missing crew members were identified as Zachariah Jackson, 28, of Salt Lake City, Utah, and Dujour Vanterpool, 26, of Houston.
Vanterpool’s body was recovered from a Padres Island beach on Monday, October 20th.
Jackson remains missing. As barge captain, he would have been positioned at the vessel’s forepeak, the site of last month’s explosion.
Investigation into Cause of Barge Explosion Continues
Within a week of the explosion, the barge has been moved to Occidental Petroleum’s Oxy-Ingleside Energy Center Terminal, a crude oil storage and export terminal.
The cause of the explosion remains unknown. The U.S. Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board have launched an investigation into the incident, but there is no timeline for its completion.
“It could take days, it could take weeks, it could take months,” Morgan Jackson, Zachariah’s brother, recently told KRIS-TV. “It’s just a matter of getting everything in order.”
“I know that they’re doing the best they can. I know it’s a process,” he continued. “And I have faith that the NTSB and the U.S. Coast Guard are going to do a thorough, aggressive investigation.”
Oil Spill Forced Port of Corpus Christi to Close
The barge was carrying about 133,000 gallons of oil when it exploded. Some of that oil did leak, forcing officials to close the Port of Corpus Christi to prevent its spread.
Cleanup crews spent days working to rid Mustang and Padres Islands of oil that had washed ashore.
Within a week of the blast, some 73 cubic feet of oil had been cleared from the beaches. However, remnants of oil could continue to turn up onshore for some time.
Barge Owner Settled Oil Spill Charges One Day Before Port Aransas Explosion
The barge involved in the Port Aransas explosion was owned by Bouchard Transportation, which had only a day earlier agreed to pay $13 million to settle remaining state and federal charges in connection with the April 2003 Buzzard’s Bay oil spill off the New England coast.
Bouchard had previously paid $11 million to resolve a class action lawsuit that resulted from the spill, as well as $6 million to settle claims connected with the destruction of aquatic and shoreline resources.
The company was also assessed a $10 million criminal fine for its role in the Buzzard’s Bay oil spill.
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