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Fifth Corpus Christi Dredger Fire Victim Dies of his Injuries

ntsb
Image courtesy USCG

Published Dec 10, 2020 7:50 PM by The Maritime Executive

A fifth victim has died of injuries sustained in the blast aboard the dredging barge Waymon L. Boyd, which is believed to have struck an underwater propane pipeline in Corpus Christi's inner harbor on August 21. Crewmember Jose Coca was evacuated from the site for critical care at San Antonio Military Medical Center, and though he remained in treatment for months, he did not survive. 

"Tragically and unfortunately, Mr. Coca was badly burned and he put up a courageous, long battle in the burn unit in San Antonio, but unfortunately he passed away fairly recently. So it increased the number of deaths from this incident from four to five," plaintiff's attorney Chris Leavitt told local TV news station 3News. Leavitt represents Mr. Coca's family and the relatives of two additional victims of the blast. 

The dredger Waymon L. Boyd was working on a contract for a private client in Corpus Christi's harbor at the time of the casualty. A preliminary NTSB report found that the Boyd likely struck an underwater 16-inch liquid propane pipeline: Divers found evidence of mechanical damage and two breaches in the pipe wall in an inspection after the fire. The pipe released a plume of gas next to the Boyd, and the propane quickly ignitied, burning the vessel and the surrounding shoreline. Four of the 18 workers at the scene died, and six survivors were evacuated for burn care in San Antonio, including Mr. Coca. 

Seven injured in tank fire

Separately, seven contract workers were injured in a fire at a tank farm in Corpus Christi on Saturday morning. Four were left in critical condition, including one who was evacuated to the burn center in San Antonio. 

At the time of the casualty, the team was cleaning residue out of a petroleum tank at the Magellan Midstream Partners storage facility, adjacent to the Citgo refinery and marine terminal. 

The cause of the fire is not known, and an investigation is under way. A shelter in place order for residents was implemented briefly, but air quality remained safe for the surrounding area, according to Magellan. 

“The welfare of the men that were injured and their families are the first things on our minds. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them," facility manager Mark Calhoun said at a press conference Saturday.