Aerial search for missing oil rig workers to resume Thursday morning

The Coast Guard will resume aerial search at first light Thursday for 11 people missing after a “catastrophic” explosion aboard an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

Though the aerial search was called off for the night, Coast Guard vessels remained in the area where the people — missing since the explosion Tuesday night — were believed to be, the Coast Guard said early Thursday.

“The Coast Guard continues to actively search throughout the night. Two Coast Guard cutters are on scene and aircraft will return to the scene at first light,” said Lt. Sue Kerver.

An investigation was underway to determine what caused the blast aboard the Deepwater Horizon, which occurred about 10 p.m. (11 p.m. ET) Tuesday.

The rig was about 52 miles southeast of Venice, Louisiana, when the explosion occurred, said Coast Guard Senior Chief Petty Officer Mike O’Berry.

“It obviously was a catastrophic event,” O’Berry said.

There were no indications it was a terrorist incident, the Coast Guard said.

Officials said 126 people were on board at the time of the explosion.

Of the 115 accounted-for workers, 17 injured were evacuated by helicopter from the rig. Another 94 people were taken to shore with no major injuries, and four more were transferred to another vessel, according to the Coast Guard.   It was not known whether the missing workers were able to make it to one of the rig’s lifeboats — fully enclosed, fire-resistant vessels designed to evacuate people quickly.

Adrian Rose, a vice president for Transocean Ltd., the company that owns the rig, said Wednesday that “we are deeply saddened by this event. Our thoughts and prayers are with the crew members of the Deepwater Horizon and their families.”  Transocean’s website describes the company as the “world’s largest offshore drilling contractor and the leading provider of drilling management services worldwide” with 140 offshore drilling units.

The rig involved in the explosion — a mobile unit which moves to different locations in the Gulf of Mexico — had been drilling for oil in its current location since January, said Eileen Angelico, a spokeswoman for Minerals Management Service, the agency that regulates the oil industry in federal waters.

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