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21/11/2012: Kin of Louisiana Oil Platform Fire Victims Enroute to US

21 November 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Family members of the Filipino oil workers affected by the November 16 fire in the oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico they were working on are now enroute and are expected to arrive starting Thursday, the Philippine Embassy said.

The Embassy made the announcement on Wednesday even as the search for a Filipino worker  who has been missing since the incident has been called off.

Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr., at the same time, said three Filipino oil workers were interviewed by federal investigators in New Orleans to determine the cause of the fire that struck their oil production platform.

On Wednesday, John Hoffman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Black Elk Energy, called Ambassador Cuisia to express his condolences and to assure the Embassy that the company will extend its assistance to the families of the affected workers who will start arriving in the US on Thursday.

The Philippine Consulate General in Chicago will be assisting family members of the lone fatality, the four seriously injured worker and the missing worker when they transit through O'Hare International Airport on their way to New Orleans.

The Embassy also said that Black Elk, the Houston-based independent oil and gas firm that owns the ill-fated platform, suspended on Tuesday evening the formal search and rescue efforts for missing worker Jerome Malagapo, 28, after more than 100 hours of operations that encompassed more than 1,400 square meters of waters in the Gulf of Mexico.

Black Elk said the search involved three commercial dive boats, search and rescue dogs, beach and near shore searches and several helicopter companies that fly in support of surface search efforts.

“We will continue to remain focused on the victims and their families, including those injured in the incident. An official investigation is underway and we will continue to cooperate with all authorities,” Black Elk said in a statement.

In New Orleans, investigators from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement of the Department of Interior interviewed the three Filipinos who survived the incident. The three were accompanied by Welfare Officer Saul de Vries when they gave their testimonies to investigators.

Consul General Leo Herrera-Lim of the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago, meanwhile, said that there have been no changes in the conditions of the four Filipinos currently undergoing treatment for the serious burns they sustained in the incident. Two remain in critical condition, the third is still serious while the fourth is improving.

Consul General Herrera-Lim said preparations for the repatriation of the remains of the lone fatality, Ellroy Corporal, 42, have started after these were turned over by the Coroner’s Officer to a local funeral home. ###