Black Elk fire victim dies

US Coast Guard Photo

A second worker has died of injuries sustained after a fire broke out on Black Elk Energy's production platform in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. announced on 23 November 2012.

Baton Rouge General Hospital said 49-year-old Avelino Tajonera passed away due to complications from major burn injuries.

Tajonera was one of four Filipino workers employed by Grand Isle Shipyard who had been hospitalized following the 16 November blaze on Black Elk's production platform 18 miles offshore Grand Isle, Louisiana, in shallow water block West Delta 32.

Three workers remain hospitalized at Baton Rouge General; two are listed in critical condition and one, identified as Wilberto Ilagan, remains in serious but stable condition. Ilagan received burns on over 35% of his body.

Tajonera, of Dinalupihan, Bataan, is the fire's second victim. The body of Elroy Corporal, 42, was recovered near the accident site on 17 November. A third worker, 28-year-old Jerome Malagapo, has not been found.

On Wednesday, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement issued a strong rebuke of Black Elk Energy's safety record.

BSEE said the Houston-based company has until 15 December to submit a performance improvement plan detailing the steps it will take to comply with federal regulations. If the company fails to do so, Black Elk stands to lose its ability to operate in the Gulf of Mexico.

'Black Elk has repeatedly failed to operate in a manner that is consistent with federal regulations,' said BSEE Director James A. Watson. 'BSEE has taken a number of enforcement actions, including issuing numerous Incidents of Non Compliance (INC's), levying civil penalties and calling in the company's senior leadership to review their performance and the ramifications of failing to improve.

'This is an appropriate and necessary step as we continue to investigate the explosion and fire that resulted in the tragic loss of life and injuries last week,' Watson said.

Black Elk Energy spokeswoman Leslie Hoffman said the company appreciates BSEE's perspective.

'Safety is a high priority for Black Elk Energy and we will continue to work cooperatively with local and federal agencies to understand exactly what happened with the incident at our platform in the Gulf of Mexico,' Hoffman said.

Black Elk's platform was undergoing maintenance at the time of the fire and was not in production.

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