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Port, Coast Guard officials react to explosion and fire

Posted at 9:26 PM, Aug 21, 2020

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Port of Corpus Christi Authority officials and the United States Coast Guard promised to conduct investigations into the explosion and fire that happened when a dredging barge hit a propane pipeline in the port's inner harbor.

But with fewer than 12 hours having elapsed since the incident Friday, those officials were more concerned about unaccounted for the barge workers, and those who remain in the hospital.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those missing," said Coast Guard Captain of the Port Edward Gaynor at a 4:30 p.m. news conference. "We will continue our efforts to bring them home to their loved ones.”

The 19-member dredging crew was from the Port Lavaca area. Four of them remain missing following the incident.

Six workers were hospitalized. One of them was released from a Corpus Christi hospital, but the other five are in medical facilities in San Antonio -- transferred there because of the severity of their injuries.

“That’s very, very disconcerting for all of us," said Port of Corpus Christi Authority CEO Sean Strawbridge. "And that’s why today our thoughts should be with those that are injured and their families.”

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality did air-quality assessments in neighborhoods near the port, finding nothing that concerned the agency.

But Strawbridge said there will be an economic impact.

"Two-hundred-million dollars a day of goods value, alone, runs through the Port of Corpus Christi," he said. "So anytime the channel is not operating that has a serious economic-dampening effect.”

The port will investigate the incident in conjunction with the Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board. Each of those federal agencies will also conduct their own probes.

Strawbridge indicated that he believes the investigations will not find safety issues at the port.

"I’ve been here five years, and this is only the second vessel-related incident that have had any injuries or possibly worse," he said. "I think that’s a pretty good track record, given the amount of volume of traffic.”