Pinoy Killed In US Oil Rig Blast

MANILA, Philippines --- The Philippine Embassy in Washington confirmed yesterday that at least one Filipino was killed in an explosion that hit an oil platform in Louisiana over the weekend.

In a statement, the embassy said the body recovered near the offshore oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico ''belonged to one of two missing Filipino workers.''

''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 Jose Cuisia Jr. said.

Cuisia relayed his condolences to the family of the victim, who he did not immediately identify pending notification of next of kin.

''We continue to hope and pray that our other kababayan is still alive and would be recovered soon,'' Cuisia added.

The embassy said the identification of the victim, an employee of Grand Isle Shipyard Inc.,, came shortly after the US Coast Guard informed the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago that divers hired to assess damage to the platform recovered a body near the incident site.

This was a few hours after the search for the two missing Filipinos was called off, the embassy added.

Meanwhile, Cuisia said four Filipinos injured in the incident 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, he said.

He also said three other Filipinos were working on the oil platform at the time of the incident but it was not immediately clear if they were among the nine workers that the US Coast Guard said were hurt in the incident.

Initial information reaching the Embassy had indicated 13 Filipinos were injured and two were missing.

But later reports showed the victims were among nine Filipinos and five non-Filipinos working on the oil production platform 25 miles off Grand Isle, Louisiana.

Cuisia said the four injured Filipinos are now being treated for serious burns at the Regional Burn Center of the Baton Rouge General Hospital also in Louisiana where two are listed in critical condition and the other two in serious condition.

Three other Filipinos were 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 incident.

Reports that reached the Embassy a few hours after the incident initially placed the number of injured Filipinos at 13 with two unaccounted for in the incident.

According to the latest reports, the victims were among the nine Filipinos and five non-Filipinos working on the oil production platform when the fire broke out.

Cuisia said Welfare Officer Saul de Vries will be proceeding 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 in the Philippines.

According to information reaching the Embassy, the Filipinos are all employees of Grand Isle Shipyard Inc., which provides manpower to Black Elk Energy, the Houston-based independent oil and gas company that owns the stricken platform.

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.

Consul General Leo Herrera-Lim said the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago had earlier been coordinating with US Coast Guard authorities and continues to monitor the situation.

He said Deputy Consul General Orontes Castro is also in touch with Grand Isle and with Black Elk Energy.

Rescue efforts were immediately undertaken by the US Coast Guard in waters off the coast of Louisiana after the incident on Friday morning until Saturday evening.

''We wish to thank the US Coast Guard for doing their best in looking for our two missing countrymen,'' Cuisia said shortly after the operations were called off on Sunday morning in Manila.

There were 22 people on board at the time of the explosion.

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