Pinoy killed in US oil rig blast

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Monday, November 19, 2012


MANILA (Updated) – The Philippine Embassy in Washington finally confirmed on Sunday that a Filipino was killed in the oil platform blast that hit off the coasts of Louisiana, United States.

Divers hired by Houston-based Black Elk Energy, the owner of the oil platform that caught fire, recovered the body in the waters near the site.

John Hoffman, the president and CEO of Black Elk Energy, wrote in an email that the body is apparently that of one of two crew members missing since the explosion and fire on Saturday.

Hoffman said the body was found close to the leg of the platform, near where the explosion occurred, in about 30 feet (9 meters) of water. He said the missing men were employees of oilfield contractor Grand Isle Shipyard.

The identity of the body recovered by the US Coast Guard has been ascertained.

“We regret to announce that the body that was recovered near the accident scene a few hours ago belongs to one of our two missing kababayans,” said Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia in a statement.

Cuisia said the identification was made by Grand Isle Shipyard Inc., the employer of the victim, shortly after the body was brought on shore.

However, the Embassy elected not to release the identity of the fatality pending notification of next of kin.

Earlier, it was reported that two Filipinos are missing after the blast and fire that hit the oil platform of Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations LLC, whose manpower is provided by Grand Isle.

“We continue to hope and pray that our other kababayan is still alive and would be found soon,” said Cuisia.

"Divers will continue to search for the second missing worker," Hoffman wrote. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families."

Aside from the killed Filipino and the one still missing, four Filipinos have already been confirmed by the Embassy to have been injured in the accident.

“Four Filipinos were also injured in the incident and are being treated for serious burns at the Regional Burn Center of the Baton Rouge General Hospital also in Louisiana. Doctors there said two of the burn victims are in critical condition while the other two are in serious condition,” said Cuisia.

The envoy said Philippine Welfare Officer Saul de Vries has already proceeded to Baton Rouge to check on the condition of the injured Filipino oil workers and see what assistance the Philippine Government could extend to them or their families at home.

Also, three other Filipinos were found to be working on the oil platform at the time of the incident.

But the envoy said the Embassy could not immediately confirm whether they were among the nine workers that the US Coast Guard said were hurt in the tragedy.

They are among an estimated 162 welders, fitters, scaffolders, and riggers who were hired in the Philippines, through Grand Isle’s US recruitment agency, D&R Resources and its Manila-based counterpart, Industrial Personnel and Management Services, to work in offshore platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

Grand Isle Shipyard Inc., which employs the Filipinos, provides manpower to Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations LLC, the Houston-based independent oil and gas firm that owns the stricken platform.

Cuisia, though, assured that Consul General Leo Herrera-Lim of the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago is constantly coordinating with US Coast Guard authorities and continues to monitor the situation while Deputy Consul General Orontes Castro is in touch with Grand Isle and Black Elk Energy.

Grand Isle Shipyard Inc. CEO Mark Pregeant said in his statement that the cause of the fire and explosion is unknown, and said "initial reports said that a welding torch was being used at the time of the incident or that an incorrect line was cut are completely inaccurate."

David Smith, a spokesman for the Interior Department's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement in Washington, said an environmental enforcement team was dispatched from a Gulf Coast base by helicopter soon after the Coast Guard was notified of the emergency.

Smith said the team would scan for any evidence of oil spilling and investigate the cause of the explosion. (HDT/AP/ECV/Sunnex)

Local news

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