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4 Orion Dredge Workers Missing and 6 Injured after Pipeline Explosion in Corpus Christi Ship Channel

An Orion Marine Group dredging vessel struck an underwater pipeline yesterday morning in the Corpus Christi Ship Channel, triggering an explosion that tragically injured six crewmembers and left four others missing.

Natural Gas Pipeline Exploded at Barge Loading Dock

The Waymon L Boyd dredge was operating along refinery row in Corpus Christi, Texas when it hit the submerged natural gas pipeline at the barge loading dock sometime around 8:00 a.m. on August 21st.  The pipeline ruptured, triggering an explosion and massive fire that engulfed the barge and a nearby grain elevator.

Corpus Christi Fire Department Chief Robert Rocha said that upon arrival, firefighters “encountered heavy fire and smoke conditions.”

Crews had the supply line shut down by late morning, and the fire was burning itself out. As a precautionary measure, Corpus Christi’s inner harbor was temporarily closed from the Harbor Bridge inward.

Waymon L. Boyd Crewmembers Undergoing Treatment for Burns

Nineteen maritime workers were aboard the barge when the pipeline exploded.

Six were injured, including four who were taken to CHRISTUS Spohn Shoreline. Three of the injured workers were later airlifted to San Antonio’s Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC), where they are receiving specialized treatment for burns sustained in the blast.

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter flew two others to Corpus Christi Medical Center-Bay Area. They also suffered burns.

The Coast Guard and Port of Corpus Christi Police and Fire departments continue to search for the four missing crewmembers. The Ortiz Center is serving as a unified command center.

Authorities have not identified the injured or missing, but have confirmed that most of the crew lived in the surrounding area, mainly Port Lavaca.

Waymon L Boyd Barge Owned by Orion Marine Group

The Waymon L Boyd dredging barge belongs to the Orion Marine Group, which is based in Houston, Texas. The vessel was formerly a diesel-powered hydraulic dredge but was recently overhauled to run on electric power.

During a news conference yesterday afternoon, Corpus Christi Chief Executive Officer Sean Strawbridge said the vessel was not operating on behalf of the port but was working for a private client.

So far, it’s not clear what might have caused the dredging vessel to strike the natural gas line. Because the explosion does involve a pipeline, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is heading up the ongoing investigation.

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