The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

March 13, 2013

Fire burns after tug, barge hit Louisiana gas pipeline



AFITTE, La. (AP) — A fire that ignited when a gas pipeline was hit by a tug boat pushing an oil barge burned into the morning hours Wednesday in a bayou south of New Orleans amid reports that oil had leaked into the water.

There was still liquid petroleum gas in the 19-mile pipeline and authorities were waiting for it to burn out, Coast Guard Petty Officer Alex Washington said.

Coast Guard Ensign Tanner Stiehl said the collision happened Tuesday at about 6 p.m. CDT on Bayou Perot, in a marshy area near where Lafourche and Jefferson parishes meet, about 30 miles south of New Orleans.

The tugboat and barge were engulfed in flames and heavy smoke billowed from the scene.

"All crew members were able to exit the tug; the captain reportedly suffered second to third-degree degree burns," the Coast Guard said in a news release early Wednesday.

Stiehl said the barge was carrying oil and "there have been reports of oil in the water." Washington said authorities were waiting until daylight to get an idea of how much oil had leaked from the barge.

The barge was holding 92,000 gallons of crude oil, the Coast Guard said. The tug boat had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel.

WWL-TV reported that the tug's captain was transferred to the burn center at Baton Rouge General Hospital.

Stiehl said the pipeline, which was in shallow water, is owned by San Ramon, Calif.-based Chevron. He said the company has isolated the pipeline from other mains, "so only whatever was in the pipeline will be able to burn."

Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts, who represents the area, told WWL-TV the fire was in very shallow water, as little as a foot deep, and authorities would not approach the site until the fire had burned itself out.

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