Search ends after blast

Authorities suspended the search Monday for a Texas man who disappeared when an oil and gas platform exploded on a lake near New Orleans. Seven people were injured in the Sunday night blast and fire, including three who were in critical condition, authorities said.

The explosion happened on an oil and gas transfer facility in Lake Pontchartrain. The platform was on waters just north of the suburban city of Kenner in Jefferson Parish. The parish sheriff, Joe Lopinto, identified the missing man as Timothy Morrison, 44, of Katy, Texas, a subcontractor on the structure.

"The decision to suspend a search is never an easy one," said Cmdr. Zac Ford. "We send our thoughts and prayers to the Morrison family and all those affected by this incident."

The Coast Guard reported that a fire aboard the platform was out by midday and that aerial surveys showed no signs of pollution in the water or onshore. A Coast Guard helicopter, a Jefferson Parish helicopter, Coast Guard vessels and boats from local agencies, continued looking for Morrison.

"There is a lot of structural damage to the rig. We have a lot of metal, twisted metal that is covering certain areas and we're going to have to go back out there with different equipment when the weather permits," Lopinto said.

The Clovelly Oil Co. platform exploded while maintenance was being done on the structure, sending a fireball high into the night sky, authorities and company officials said. The Kenner government Facebook page said authorities on the scene reported that cleaning chemicals had ignited on the structure, but the company said the cause of the blast was unknown. Lopinto stressed that the cause remained under investigation.

Five of the injured were hospitalized with "blast-type injuries and burns," said Mike Guillot, director of East Jefferson Emergency Medical Services. Two of the three people in critical condition were in a burn unit, Guilot said.

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