Two Missing after Barge Explosion off Port Aransas

Two crew members are missing following an explosion and fire aboard a barge off the coast of Port Aransas, Texas, according to the United States Coast Guard.

The two men went missing in the incident which occurred in the morning hours of October 20 on the forward section of the barge. Officials launched a search and rescue operation, however, it was suspended without results in the evening hours a day later.

USCG said that multiple oil discharge recovery and coast guard assets are still on scene in the vicinity of the barge that continue to maintain a vigilant watch for the men.

The barge B255, which was loaded with some 133,000 barrels of crude oil at the time, caught fire while it was three miles off the jetties of Port Aransas. Relevant authorities managed to extinguish the fire, however, oil pollution was reported in the area and response efforts continue to minimize the impact to the environment and maritime community.

2,000-feet of oil-containment boom was deployed around the barge to contain any oil that has entered the water. An additional 6,000-feet of boom is on scene to protect environmentally sensitive areas.

The entrance and jetty channels leading to the Corpus Christi ship channel from Harbor Island to offshore were initially closed in order to prevent the spread of discharged oil into the port and to safely facilitate cleanup operations. The USCG reopened the impacted ship channels on October 22.

“Discharge from the barge cargo tanks appears to have stopped following the removal of 2,500 barrels of oil-water mix from the barge through lightering operations. Lightering is currently suspended due to weather, but will resume with improvement in sea conditions,” USCG informed.

Containment boom remains in place around the vessel, though sheening from the barge and containment boom is present. Coast Guard air overflights found no oil in the vicinity of the Entrance and Jetty channels.