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2 crew members still missing after pipeline explosion in Corpus Christi

Of the 19 crew members involved, 2 are still missing and six have been transported to area hospitals.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — UPDATE

The bodies of 2 missing crewmembers have been recovered.

UPDATE 5 p.m.

Officials say a barge with dredging equipment somehow hit a propane pipeline, igniting flames early Friday morning. The dredge belongs to the Orion Marine Group out of Washington State.

Of the 19 crew members, four are missing, six have been transported to area hospitals; five of those were sent to San Antonio. According to officials with Orine, crew members are from surrounding areas, mainly Port Lavaca. 

The barge was not related to the Port's dredging project, instead, working for the company Epic, located on the docks, formally used by the grain elevator.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality immediately began monitoring the surrounding areas to check air quality with a special equipped van.  

"It has the ability to take the assessments in rapid time and provide that data as you're driving with no significant findings so far and we ran that down Joe Fulton and are moving around the other side of the bay now," Brooke West with TCEQ said.

As for the victims, Strawbridge gave us an accounting.

"Of the 19 crew members, 15 have been accounted for. Four are still missing. Of those 15 that have been accounted for, six were transported to hospitals. Five of those to San Antonio. "One here locally we understand may be released later today."   

The Ortiz Center has been turned into a unified command center, providing space for all the first responders to organize not only the search and rescue of the four missing workers, but also the conduct the ongoing investigation into the mishap.

Stawbridge said the US Coast Guard, the National Transportation Safety Board and the Port of Corpus Christi will investigate.

Earlier Today

Fire crews were dispatched to an explosion near the Port of Corpus Christi and refinery row just after 8 a.m on Friday, August 21.

There were 19 people on board a dredge vessel, the Waymon Boyd, when a fire occurred in the Port of Corpus Christi near the vessel and caused the explosion. 

"Several crewmen were injured in the incident, some seriously, and are being treated. Four crewmen are unaccounted for at this time," stated officials from the Orion Marine Group. 

At least three people suffered severe burns in the explosion and have been transported by helicopter to a burn unit in San Antonio, Texas.

Four people that were involved in Friday's explosion are still missing along the Corpus Christi Ship Channel and the U.S. Coast Guard are actively searching the Corpus Christi waters for the missing group. 

The National Transportation Safety Board announced Friday afternoon they are currently investigating the dredge vessel, Waynon L. Boyd, which struck a pipeline near Inner Harbor, Corpus Christi, Texas.

Safety Zone for the Corpus Christi Ship Channel Inner Harbor:

Credit: 3News

Statement from the company that owns the dredger:

Orion Marine Group: At approximately 8:00 this morning a fire occurred in the Port of Corpus Christi near one of our dredges, the Waymon Boyd, and the vessel caught fire. Several crewmen were injured in the incident, some seriously, and are being treated. Four crewmen are unaccounted for at this time. We are actively working with all local authorities, including the US Coast Guard and the Port of Corpus Christi Authority, to support emergency response efforts. As we continue to gather more information our top priority is the safety of our crew and those impacted by the incident.  At this point, we anticipate that additional updates will be provided by the Joint Incident Command in Corpus Christi.

The Port of Corpus Christi stated the following in response to the explosion:

"Port authorities received notification at 08:00 of a fire that involved a natural gas pipeline. The operators have isolated the line and are working with emergency responders and stakeholders to contain the incident and ensure area safety. The U.S. Coast Guard issued a safety zone in the Corpus Christi Ship Channel Inner Harbor, from the Inner Harbor Bridge (U.S. Hwy 181) to the Viola Turning Basin. No vessel may enter the safety zone without permission from the U.S. Coast Guard. At this time, there is no threat to public safety. The Port of Corpus Christi is committed to informing our communities and will share updates as they become available. The safety of our employees, stakeholders, and community remains our top priority,” said a spokesperson for the Port of Corpus Christi.

3News spoke with Sean Strawbridge, the Chief Executive Officer at the Port of Corpus Christi and he confirmed to 3News that the explosion was indeed caused by a propane line. 

Strawbridge says this was a private dock and was part of a private dredging operation that somehow clipped the propane pipeline. That propane line has been shut off but officials say some propane still remains in the pipeline.

Chief Rocha says citizens should not be concerned about hazardous materials and reveals the Emergency Management has not been called to action, nor have any evacuations been ordered. 

Rocha says a large amount of smoke from Friday morning's explosion is being pushed away from the city by wind. 

Governor Abbott release the following statement on Friday afternoon: 

"The State of Texas is working closely with local partners in Corpus Christi as well as the Coast Guard to assist with emergency response efforts following the explosion. Texas Division of Emergency Management and Texas Department of Public Safety personnel are already on the ground to provide support, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is monitoring air quality in the area. The state stands ready to provide any additional personnel and resources needed to address this event and keep Texans in the area safe. We will continue to monitor the situation, and I ask all Texans to pray for the men and women responding to the explosion and for the safety of those in the area." 

There has been a large amount of videos and pictures coming into the newsroom from viewers and witnesses.