WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Philippine Embassy has not given up hope on a Filipino contract worker who remains missing more than three days after an explosion and fire in the oil production platform he was working on in the Gulf of Mexico left one other Filipino dead and four others seriously injured.
Ambassador Cuisia said he was informed that although the United States Coast Guard has called off its own search, Black Elk Energy, the Houston-based owner of the ill-fated platform, continued on with its own search efforts.
Ambassador Cuisia said Black Elk dispatched at least two vessels and several divers to continue the search for the missing Filipino. It was the same divers who recovered the body of contract worker Elroy Corporal in waters near the accident site on Saturday evening.
Ambassador Cuisia said the remains of Corporal, 42, are now in New Orleans and will be readied for repatriation to the Philippines after authorities perform an autopsy on Monday. The envoy personally contacted Corporal’s widow, Mary Jean, in Iligan City to extend his sympathy and to offer whatever assistance that she and her two children may require.
At the same time, the Embassy said Philippine consular officials are now in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to attend to the remains of Corporal and to look into how the Philippine Government could assist the four Filipinos who are being treated there for the serious burns they sustained in the incident.
The Embassy said Deputy Consul General Orontes Castro Jr. of the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago and Welfare Officer Saul de Vries and Assistant Labor Officer Oliver Flores of the Embassy in Washington D.C. met on Sunday evening with doctors at the Baton Rouge General Hospital to check on the condition of the four Filipinos.
The three were informed by Dr. Flip Roberts, Chief Medical Officer, and Dr. Jeffrey Littleton, Burn Surgeon and Chair of the Department of Surgery, that two of the four remain in critical condition at the hospital’s Regional Burn Unit while another is in serious condition. The fourth, who was identified as Wilberto Ilagan, is conscious and in fair condition, according to Deputy Consul General Castro.
Ilagan, who suffered burns in 35 percent of his body, was earlier reported to have asked his doctors to inform his family in the Philippines that he is alive and well after he was earlier erroneously reported to have succumbed to injuries he sustained.
“To my relatives, to my family, and to my country, I am alive and in good health. I am burned, but my heart and lungs are healthy,” the 50-year-old Ilagan said in the message that was conveyed on his behalf by his doctors.
The hospital said the four patients are considered to have major burns and remain in the critical window of time that follows major burn injuries and are continuing on normal courses of treatment.
According to the Embassy, the three consular officials will also meet with the three other Filipino workers who were in the oil platform at the time of the incident as well as with representatives of their employer, Gulf Isle Shipyard Inc., and the platform owner Black Elk Energy.
The Embassy said there were nine Filipino and five non-Filipino employees of Gulf Isle working on the oil platform at the time of the incident but it could not immediately confirm whether the three who were not reported missing or injured suffered minor injuries or were unhurt.
The nine Filipinos who figured in the incident are believed to be among an estimated 162 welders, fitters, scaffolders and riggers whowere hired in the Philippines to work in offshore platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. ###