Burn victim improves after oil rig fire

NEW ORLEANS — As crews searched Sunday for a worker still missing after an oil platform explosion and fire, doctors said one of four men burned in the blaze is improving and is now in fair condition.

Two remained in critical condition and one in serious condition, doctors say.

The company that owned the platform that caught fire in the Gulf of Mexico pledged Sunday to keep searching for a second worker still missing after a body was found in about 30 feet of water near one leg of the platform.

At Baton Rouge General Medical Center’s burn unit, Wilberto Ilagan, 50, of the Philippines, told Dr. Jeffrey Littleton that he wanted to send a message, according to a news release issued Sunday.

“To my relatives, to my family, and to my country, I am alive and in good health,” Ilagan said. “I am burned, but my heart and lungs are healthy.”

According to The Advocate, Littleton said Sunday that the other men’s names are being withheld because they have not given their consent to release them.

The Philippine Embassy in Washington has said all the workers are from the Philippines.

The remains of the unidentified person were found Saturday night by divers hired by Houston-based Black Elk Energy, Coast Guard spokesman Carlos Vega said. He said the Coast Guard, which has suspended its own search, would turn over the body to local authorities.

John Hoffman, the president and CEO of Black Elk Energy, has said the body is apparently one of two crew members missing since an explosion and fire on the oil platform Friday morning. Hoffman said the body was found by a contract dive vessel.

He wrote in an email Sunday morning that a second dive vessel was brought in to speed up the search for the second missing worker.

“The workers impacted by this accident continue to be our primary focus,” Hoffman wrote.

Hoffman said the body was found near where the explosion occurred. The missing and wounded workers were employees of oilfield contractor Grand Isle Shipyard, he said.

GIS CEO Mark Pregeant released a statement that the company has notified the families of those involved but was declining to release their names, WWL-TV in New Orleans reported.

The Coast Guard suspended its own search earlier Saturday after 32 hours spent covering 1,400 square miles near the oil platform, located about 20 miles southeast of Grand Isle, La.

Authorities have said the blaze erupted Friday morning while workers were using a torch to cut an oil line on the platform.

Pregeant’s statement, however, said the cause of the fire and explosion is unknown and that “initial reports that a welding torch was being used at the time of the incident or that an incorrect line was cut are completely inaccurate.”

A man who answered the phone at the company’s Galliano, La., office on Sunday said the company had no comment.

Separate from the explosion, Grand Isle Shipyard is facing a lawsuit by a group of former workers from the Philippines who claim they were confined to cramped living quarters and forced to work long hours for substandard pay. The lawsuit was filed in late 2011 in a Louisiana federal court and is pending. Lawyers for the company have said the workers’ claims are false and should be dismissed.

The workers recently obtained conditional class certification for allegations that Grand Isle Shipyard didn’t pay them properly for overtime and may have violated other fair-labor standards, said attorney Joseph C. Peiffer. He said a notice will go out soon to let other workers know they might be able to join the lawsuit.

He said he was not representing the injured workers, but didn’t rule out the possibility that he might do so.

Meanwhile, Black Elk said no oil was leaking from the charred platform, which hadn’t been operating since August.

Black Elk Energy is an independent oil and gas company. The company’s website says it holds interests in properties in Texas and Louisiana waters, including 854 wells on 155 platforms.

More in Local News

Within an hour, 2 planes crash-land at Paine Field

One simply landed hard and went off the end of a runway. Another crash involved unextended landing gear.

Mill Creek’s Donna Michelson ready to retire at year’s end

The city’s longest-serving council member says she has every intention of staying involved.

Leanne Smiciklas, the friendly lady who served customers of her husband’s Old School Barbeque from a schoolbus parked in front of the Reptile Zoo east of Monroe, has died at 64. (Dan Bates / Herald file)
Without her, beloved BBQ hotspot in Monroe can’t go on

Leanne Smiciklas, who ran the now-closed Old School BBQ along Highway 2 with her husband, died.

Foundation awards grants to Arlington schools

The Arlington Education Foundation on Nov. 13 presented a check to the… Continue reading

Snohomish County firefighters head to California for 18 days

They’re from Fire District 26 in Gold Bar, Getchell Fire and Fire District 7.

State commission reprimands Snohomish County judge for DUI

Judge Marybeth Dingledy had pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a day in jail.

Driver arrested after car strikes pedestrian in Everett

The pedestrian was crossing the road near 12th Street and Broadway. He was injured.

Active Casino Road volunteer honored for work

Molina Healthcare recently honored Jorge Galindo, from Everett, as one of its… Continue reading

Over $12K raised to InspireHER

InspireHER, a local organization that encourages female empowerment, raised over $12,000 at… Continue reading

Most Read