Filipino confirmed dead in US oil rig fire
MANILA, Philippines - One Filipino has been confirmed dead after the fire in an offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico last Friday, November 17, the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC said Sunday, November 18.
"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," Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose L Cuisia Jr was quoted as saying in a statement released Sunday.
The fatality, whose identity has not yet been revealed to the public, was identified by the victim's employer, Grand Isle Shipyard Inc. Next of kin are yet to be identified, the Embassy added.
One more Filipino worker is still missing after the blast. "We continue to hope and pray that our other kababayan is still alive and would be recovered soon," the Embassy said.
The victim was located by divers late Saturday, November 17, who were inspecting the structure of the rig, located about 20 miles south of Grand Isle, Louisiana.
Four other Filipinos were injured: two in critical condition, and two in serious condition. The Embassy has yet to confirm if three other Filipinos, who were also working on the platform at the time of the incident, are also among the other 9 workers injured, as reported by the US Coast Guard.
Initial reports after the incident placed a total of 13 Filipinos injured and two missing.
Embassy Welfare Officer Saul de Vries is proceeding to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to assist the injured Filipino citizens.
"According to information reaching the Embassy, the Filipinos are all employees of Grand Isle Shipyard Inc., which provides manpower to Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations LLC, the Houston-based independent oil and gas company that owns the stricken platform," the Embassy said in its statement.
An estimated 162 Filipinos were hired through D&R Resources, and its Manila office D&R Offshore Crewing Services Resources, to work in offshore platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, the statement added.
The US Coast Guard had suspended its search earlier Saturday for the two missing workers. US Coast Guard spokesman Carlos Vega said it remains suspended, pending signs they might still be alive.
Coast Guard crews had scoured a 1,400 square-mile area for more than 32 hours using patrol boats, helicopters, and fixed wing aircraft.
The blast on the rig in the Gulf of Mexico Friday injured 11 people, but did not cause a major spill, the Coast Guard said.
There were 22 people on board when the blast rocked the rig operated by Houston-based Black Elk Energy shortly before 9 am (1500 GMT).
Black Elk Energy officials could not immediately be reached for comment after the body was found.
The blaze began during maintenance work when the crew was cutting through a pipe.
The accident occurred one day after oil giant BP agreed to pay a record $4.5 billion in US fines for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The company also pleaded guilty to 14 counts including felony manslaughter in the deaths of 11 workers.
That deadly blast aboard the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig unleashed the biggest marine oil spill in the industry's history and the worst environmental disaster ever to strike the United States. - Rappler.com, with reports from the Agence France-Presse