The U.S. Coast Guard has yet to determine the cause of a deadly oil barge explosion that killed two crewmembers off the coast of Port Aransas, Texas, last month.
Crew Member Remains Missing
Dujour Vanterpool, 26, of Houston and Zachariah Jackson, 28, of Salt Lake City, Utah, died tragically when the forward section of a Bouchard Transportation oil barge suddenly exploded around 4:30 a.m. on October 20th.
Vanterpool’s body was discovered the following Monday, about six miles south of the Malaquite Pavilion in the Padre Island National Seashore.
Jackson’s remains have not been found.
The remaining six crewmembers were able to safely escape from the vessel.
Oil Barge was Carrying a New Crude When It Exploded
The cause of the explosion remains unknown nearly a month after the incident. However, Captain Jason Smith, Deputy Sector Commander, Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi, recently suggested that the vessel’s cargo may have played a role in the tragedy.
“What we do know is there was some explosion that occurred,” Smith during a November 14th meeting of the Port of Corpus Christi Commissioners. “The product that they’re carrying is a new crude…it’s relatively new to us as well. So we’re trying to explore how that type of crude oil would explode like that.”
According to Smith, rescue crews were on scene just 40 minutes after the explosion occurred. He praised the various responding agencies for the swift reaction, strong communication among responders, and the effective use of available resources.
“We plan for these kinds of events, and then in the rare opportunity that we have to exercise them, we have those relationships already in place.”
Coast Guard Continues to Monitor Beaches, Gulf of Mexico for Possible Environmental Impacts
The crippled barge was heavily damaged in the explosion and ensuing fire, causing the vessel to spill hundreds of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Some of that oil washed up on Mustang and South Padre Islands.
According to Smith, a 140-person cleanup crew spent two weeks ridding the beaches of oil.
“Both the Coast Guard and all of our local, state and county partners, are out their monitoring the beach and water to make sure there’s no long-term impact,” he said.
Bouchard Transportation Responsible for Cleanup and Response Costs
Bouchard Transportation will be responsible for all costs related to response and cleanup, though a final figure has yet to be determined.
Just one day before the Port Aransas oil barge explosion, Bouchard Transportation and its affiliates agreed to pay $13 million to resolve remaining federal and state natural resource damages claims related to their role in the April 2003 Buzzards Bay Oil Spill off the coast of New England.
Bouchard had previously paid $6 million to settle claims for injuries to shoreline and aquatic resources, coastal recreational uses, and piping plovers stemming from the Buzzards Bay spill. The company also agreed to pay $10 million to resolve criminal charges and entered into an $11 million class action settlement related to the incident.
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