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4 Dead, 2 Missing in Pipeline Blast

October 14, 2006

CYPREMORT POINT, La. (AP) _ The body of a fourth barge worker was found Friday as the search continued for two people still missing after a natural gas pipeline exploded off the Louisiana coast.

The blast occurred Thursday when a barge _ one of two being pushed by a Gulf of Mexico tugboat _ hit the pipeline in West Cote Blanche Bay, about two miles from shore and 100 miles southwest of New Orleans, the Coast Guard said.

Three bodies were found within hours of the accident. The fourth, Terry Abraham, 36, of Baldwin, was pulled from the water about two miles from the site Friday morning, Iberia Parish Sheriff Sid Hebert said.

A Coast Guard helicopter and other vessels searched the area around the site and the barge that struck the pipeline was searched twice, said Lt. Rick Foster of the Coast Guard.

Gas flow was shut off to the pipeline Thursday over concerns that any gas trapped in the lines might pose a danger, but that worry had diminished by Friday.

Foster said divers would examine the site to determine whether a ``spud″ from one of the barges _ a metal extension used to halt the vessel _ might have pinched the pipeline. The barge was still in place at the site.

Choppy waters also hampered the search, but the water in the area was only about 5 feet or 6 feet deep, and there was some hope that survivors might have reached one of the many offshore oil and gas platforms that dot the horizon, said Maj. Tim Cossey of the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Family and friends of the missing gathered at a marina at Cypremort Point, a community of shoreline residences and fishing camps.

A witness who alerted authorities to the accident said flames shot up 100 feet, said Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Nyx Cangemi.

There were at least two survivors, one hospitalized with severe burns and the other uninjured, said Coast Guard spokeswoman Veronica Bandrowsky.

Two of the dead were identified Friday morning by the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office as Kennith J. Rink, 51, of Berwick, and John J. Mire Jr., 59, of Patterson.

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