Worker burned in Gulf oil platform fire dies

Associated Press photo -- An image provided by a oil field worker shows a fire burning on a Gulf oil platform Friday, after an explosion on the rig, in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast.
Associated Press photo -- An image provided by a oil field worker shows a fire burning on a Gulf oil platform Friday, after an explosion on the rig, in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — One of the men critically burned in an offshore oil platform fire has died in a Baton Rouge hospital, the Philippine ambassador said Friday.

Avelino Tajonera, 49, a welder from Dinalupihan, Bataan, died Friday morning, Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. said in a statement posted on the embassy’s website.

“The Filipino nation joins his family in grieving over their loss,” he said.

Tajonera’s wife and three children were able to see him Thursday evening, when they arrived in Baton Rouge; he died early Friday, a few hours later, Cuisia said. The Baton Rouge General and its Regional Burn Center also announced Tajonera’s death Friday afternoon.

The explosion and fire Nov. 16 also killed Ellroy Corporal, 42, whose body was found in the waters near the platform. The search for Jerome Malagapo, 28, was called off this week.

Cuisia said he was told of Tajonera’s death and his family’s visit by Randolf Malagapo, executive manager of D&R Resources, which hired him and the other injured Filipinos to work in Louisiana’s offshore oil and gas industry.

Three other men remain hospitalized. Their families are in Baton Rouge, Cuisia said. The only one whose name has been released is Wilberto Ilagan, 50, who improved to good condition earlier this week.

All of the men were working for Grand Isle Shipyard Inc., which had a contract with Black Elk Energy to refurbish the platform.

The federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement is investigating the fire.

The embassy quoted Consul General Leo Herrera-Lim as saying three Filipino workers who survived the fire were back in Manila after giving statements to federal investigators. Corporal’s body will be returned to the Philippines on Tuesday, Herrera-Lim said.

The Baton Rouge General and its Regional Burn Center have been caring for four patients injured in the Gulf explosion.

“Our hearts remain with the Tajonera family, and all the loved ones and fellow countrymen of this brave man. We are all deeply saddened by this loss,” noted Dr. Floyd Roberts, Chief Medical Officer, in a news release on Friday.

Currently, two patients are in critical condition; the fourth patient, Wilberto Ilagan, 50, remains in serious but stable condition, according to the release.