Filipino worker in US oil rig blast tells kin: I’m alive
Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - November 20, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - A Filipino injured in the oil platform blast off New Mexico sent a succinct message Sunday to his relatives and countrymen: “I am alive.”

A CNN report said Wilberto Ilagan relayed his message two days after the blast and one day after his co-worker was found dead on the sea floor.

The Philippine embassy identified the Filipino fatality whose body was found on the ocean floor as Elroy Corporal, 42. One more Filipino worker remains missing.

Ilagan, according to the CNN report, is one of at least 11 injured in Friday morning’s explosion on a platform located 20 miles off the coast of Grand Isle, Louisiana.

He is also one of four Filipinos who suffered major burns and are being treated at Baton Rouge General Medical Center.

Hospital officials briefed reporters Sunday about the status of those four patients, including passing along a message from Ilagan, who was recently upgraded to fair condition.

“I am burned, but my heart and lungs are healthy,” the hospital quoted Ilagan as saying. The explosion site is some 160 miles from the hospital where two others remain in critical condition, said Baton Rouge General’s chief of surgery Jeffrey Littleton.

One other patient is in serious condition and being treated by staff at Baton Rouge General’s burn center.

“They remain in the critical window of time that follows major burn injuries,” CNN quoted Baton Rouge General’s Chief Medical Officer Flip Roberts as saying. “But our physicians and staff remain hopeful about their prognosis.”

Ilagan is the only one of the four at the Baton Rouge hospital to be identified by name.

Black Elk Energy president and CEO John Hoffman said Corporal’s body was found on the sea floor under the platform by divers Saturday night. Another worker was still unaccounted for Sunday.

“We’re working in coordination with the US Coast Guard so we can respectfully and most efficiently recover the body and get that body to shore,” Hoffman had said.

Black Elk Energy, a Houston-based firm, was in charge of the platform, which was used for production, not drilling.

An oil sheen reportedly stretched for about a half-mile near the platform. The cause of the blast remains under investigation.

Hoping for a miracle

Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr. said they have not given up hope on a Filipino contract worker who remains missing more than three days after the tragedy.

“We know that it has been more than 48 hours but we Filipinos always believe in miracles and we continue to pray that our other kababayan will be found alive,” Cuisia said.

He said the remains of Corporal are now in New Orleans and would be readied for repatriation to the Philippines after an autopsy.

Cuisia personally contacted Corporal’s widow, Mary Jean, in Iligan City to extend his sympathy and to offer whatever assistance she and her two children may need.

The Philippine embassy said consular officials are now in Baton Rouge to attend to the remains of Corporal and to look into how the Philippine government could assist the four injured Filipinos.

Cuisia said he was informed that although the US Coast Guard has called off its search for the missing, Black Elk Energy went on with its own search efforts.

Cuisia said Black Elk dispatched at least two vessels and several divers to continue the search for the missing Filipino.

The embassy said Deputy Consul General Orontes Castro Jr., Welfare Officer Saul de Vries and Assistant Labor Officer Oliver Flores met on Sunday evening with doctors at the Baton Rouge General Hospital to check on the condition of the four Filipinos.

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