U.S. To Probe Tragic Oil Rig Fire

by Joseph G. Lariosa


CHICAGO (jGLi) – The three seriously injured Filipino workers will have the chance to shed more light on the oil rig platform fire and explosion three weeks ago that claimed the lives of their three other countrymen in the Gulf of Mexico near Grand Isle, Louisiana as soon as they are healthy enough.

Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. said that the Philippine Embassy was informed that the Bureau of Safety and Environment Enforcement (BSEE) of the U.S. Department of Interior has made initial inquiries to check on the condition of the three Filipinos being treated for serious burns at the Baton Rouge General Hospital in Louisiana.

“We expect federal authorities to interview the three Filipino workers as soon as their condition would allow them to give their account of what really happened that day,” Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. said.

Ambassador Cuisia made the statement as hospital authorities announced that the condition of two of the three Filipino workers, who were previously in the serious list, continues to improve.

“We expect our kababayans to tell investigators everything they know so that we could all get to the bottom of this tragedy,” Ambassador Cuisia said.

Ambassador Cuisia had earlier rejected insinuations that the fire was a result of the incompetence and poor command of English of the Filipino workers.

The envoy said the workers, who were under contract with Grand Isle Shipyard Inc., have extensive experience in the offshore oil industry and have undergone proper safety and language training.

“If Filipino offshore oil workers are incompetent as some want the public to believe, then why do we have many of them helping maintain and operate oil platforms and support vessels in the Gulf of Mexico as of now?” Ambassador Cuisia asked.

Ambassador Cuisia said Renato Dominguez, 52, and the other Filipino, whose name could not be disclosed at the request of his family, are now in fair condition while the third worker, Wilberto Ilagan, 50, remains in good condition.

According to the Philippine Ambassador, three other Filipinos who were with the six victims when fire broke out on the platform owned by Houston-based Black Elk Energy gave their statements to BSEE investigators before they returned to the Philippines a few days after the incident.

Those who died in the tragic fire and explosion were Avelino Tajonera, 49, welder from Bataan; Jerome Malagapo, 28, pipefitter from Cebu’s suburban Danao City; and Ellroy Corporal, 42, rigger from Iligan City.

The recovery of Malagapo 20 miles away from the oil platform came three days after Tajonera died as a result of complications from the serious burns he sustained in the incident that also claimed the life of Corporal. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

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