Murphy Refinery Fire Investigated

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Murphy Refinery Fire Investigated

06/12/2003
MERAUX, La. -- Federal and state investigators are investigating a warning message left near a fire at the Murphy USA oil refinery.

St. Bernard Parish Sheriff Jack Stephens said investigators had not been able to determine whether the message was a prank. The message, written in black ink, said something would happen Tuesday -- the day of the fire -- at the refinery. The message was discovered after the fire on a piece of machinery at the refinery near the Mississippi River, authorities said.

The Murphy plant remained closed Thursday and officials said it is doubtful operations will resume later this week. Officials hope to make a damage assessment in the unit where the fire originated, spokesman Carl Zornes said.

At Murphy the question still is "could anyone have manipulated or damaged equipment to cause the failure" resulting in the blaze, Stephens said.

But he said, "There is still no persuasive evidence that sinister forces or sabotage" was responsible, according to The (La.) Times-Picayune.

Stephens and Louis Reigel III, the special agent in charge of the FBI's New Orleans office, said Wednesday they do not believe anything other than mechanical or equipment problems caused the nearly simultaneous pre-dawn fires at Murphy and at nearby Chalmette Refining LLC. Neither would release the exact contents of the message.