Change-of-plea hearing set in deadly 2013 offshore fire

NEW ORLEANS (AP) " Federal criminal charges filed against an energy company over a deadly 2012 offshore oil platform fire may be headed for a resolution.

Court records show a change-of-plea hearing has been set for April 26 for Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations, which faces three counts of involuntary manslaughter plus various safety and environmental charges in the case. The company has pleaded not guilty but records show a judge set the new hearing after prosecutors and defense lawyers jointly requested an order enabling Black Elk to enter a new plea.

The U.S. Attorney's Office declined comment. An attorney for Black Elk did not immediately respond to requests for details Monday.

Three Filipino workers died in the 2012 fire on the platform operated by Black Elk.

A 2013 report by federal regulators identified a string of safety lapses that led to the blast, which killed Ellroy Corporal, Jerome Malagapo and Avelino Tajonera.

The platform was about 17 miles (27 kilometers) from Grand Isle, Louisiana, in about 52 feet (15 meters) of water. It had been "shut in" and wasn't producing oil at the time of the explosion.

Workers were on the platform preparing to resume production. On the morning of Nov. 16, 2012, a worker ignited oil vapors while welding pipe, triggering a chain reaction that caused oil tanks to explode.

In February, penalties of $1.8 million were announced for a contractor in the case, the oil industry services company Wood Group PSN, for pollution.

Criminal charges involving federal Clean Water Act violations remain against another contracting company and individuals who worked on the platform.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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