US authorities found body of 3rd Filipino fatality in oil rig fire

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Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Authorities in the United States (US) had recovered and positively identified the body of the missing Filipino oil rig worker, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia said in a statement issued Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).

“We are deeply saddened to learn that we lost our kababayan, Jerome Malagapo,” Cuisia said.

“We console ourselves with the thought that Jerome has been found and will be reunited with his loved ones,” he added.

Malagapo’s death brings to three the number of fatalities in the US offshore tragedy. His body’s recovery came three days after fellow worker Avelino Tajonera, a 49-year-old welder from Bataan, died as a result of complications from the serious burns he sustained in the incident. On November 18, the body of Elroy Corporal, 42, was found close to the leg of the platform, near where the explosion occurred, in about 30 feet of water.

Cuisia said the embassy was informed of the recovery of the body of 28-year old fitter from Danao, Cebu on Monday but that it opted not to release information until the body was positively identified.

Cuisia said he received a call from Mark Goldman, Chief Investigator of the La Fourche Parish Coroner’s Office, confirming the identification.

The body was spotted near an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, about 20 miles from the ill-fated platform that he and eight other Filipinos were working on, Cuisia said. There were nine Filipino and five non-Filipino employees working on the oil platform when it caught fire on November 16.

Cuisia had also personally informed Malagapo’s wife, Joanne; his father, Francisco; and other members of the family of the positive identification based on dental records submitted on Tuesday night from the Philippines.

The envoy said that authorities were initially planning to take DNA samples from Malagapo’s father, Francisco, also an offshore oil worker in Louisiana, to identify Jerome Malagapo’s body but Philippine consular officials recommended that dental records be submitted.

Meanwhile, three other seriously injured Filipinos, whose families were also brought to Louisiana, remain hospitalized.

Consul General Leo Herrera-Lim of the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago was quoted as saying that the government continues to assist the families of the workers who arrived from the Philippines last week.

He said Deputy Consul General Orontes Castro Jr. and Welfare Officer Saul de Vries were in constant coordination with hospital officials, the employer D&R Resources and the contractor Grand Isle Shipyard Inc.

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