Pinoy fatality in US oil rig explosion identified

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Monday, November 19, 2012


MANILA (Updated) -- The Philippine Embassy has identified the Filipino worker killed in an offshore oil production platform explosion in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday.

Ambassador Jose Cuisia Jr. said the remains of 42-year-old Elroy Corporal is now in New Orleans and would be readied for repatriation after authorities have performed an autopsy.

Cuisia said he has talked with Corporal's widow, Mary Jean, in Iligan City to extend his sympathies and offer assistance to the family.

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He said, however, that the embassy has not yet given up hope that the other Filipino worker who remained missing more than three days after the fire and explosion incident will still be found.

The envoy said although the United States Coast Guard has called off its own search, Black Elk Energy, the Houston-based owner of the ill-fated platform, continued on with its own search efforts.

Black Elk dispatched at least two vessels and several divers to continue the search for the missing Filipino, he said. It was the same divers who recovered the body of Corporal in waters near the accident site on Saturday evening.

"We know that it has been more than 48 hours but we Filipinos always believe in miracles and we continue to pray that our other kababayan (compatriot) will be found alive," Cuisia said.

Cuisia earlier requested US authorities to resume their search efforts for the missing Filipino after the US Coast Guard called these off on Saturday evening following a 32-hour operation.

The Pentagon, however, informed the Office of the Defense and Armed Forces Attache, under Brigadier General Cesar Yano, that the US Coast Guard still has assets that are monitoring the situation in the area.

Likewise, Cuisia said that embassy officials in Washington, D.C. and the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago are now in Louisiana to assist the Filipinos who figured in last Friday's explosion.

Deputy Consul General Orontes Castro Jr. of the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago and Welfare Officer Saul de Vries and Assistant Labor Officer Oliver Flores of the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. flew to New Orleans on Sunday afternoon (Monday morning in Manila) to also attend to the remains of the lone Filipino fatality and to monitor the search for a missing worker.

"Our officials are now on the ground in New Orleans and will soon be on their way to Baton Rouge to extend the necessary assistance to the affected workers," he said.

The three officials were expected to meet with doctors at the Regional Burn Unit of the Baton Rouge General Hospital where four Filipinos are being treated for serious burns sustained in the incident.

They will also meet with three other Filipino workers and representatives of their employer, Gulf Isle Shipyard Inc., and the platform owner Black Elk Energy.

Meanwhile, 50-year-old Wilberto Ilagan, one of four Filipino workers being treated at Regional Burn Unit of the Baton Rouge General Hospital, had been moved out of the serious list and is now in "fair condition."

The embassy said two of the four Filipino patients remained in critical condition while another was in serious condition. Labor Attaché Luzviminda Padilla was also able to talk briefly to Ilagan on Saturday night.

"To my relatives, to my family, and to my country, I am alive and in good health. I am burned, but my heart and lungs are healthy," the embassy quoted Ilagan as saying.

The embassy earlier said there were nine Filipinos working on the oil platform at the time of the incident, but it could not confirm whether the three who were not reported missing or injured suffered minor injuries, or were unhurt.

The US Coast Guard had said that 13 were injured in the blast, including the nine Filipinos. About 162 welders, fitters, scaffolders and riggers had been hired by Black Elk from the Philippines to work in its offshore platform in the Gulf of Mexico. (JCV/Sunnex)

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