One of 11 hurt in deadly Gulf oil platform blast says: ‘I’m alive’

Posted at 2:48 PM, Nov 18, 2012

(CNN) — Two days after a Gulf of Mexico oil platform blast and one day after his co-worker was found dead on the sea floor, a Filipino man offered a succinct message Sunday to his relatives and countrymen: “I am alive.”

Wilberto Ilagan is one of the 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 — all men native to the Philippines — 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 Illagan, who was recently upgraded to fair condition.

“I am burned, but my heart and lungs are healthy,” the Filipino man said, according to the hospital.

Two others remain in critical condition at the hospital, which is about 160 miles from the explosion site and 8,500 miles from the Philippines, said Baton Rouge General’s chief of surgery Dr. 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,” said Baton Rouge General’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Flip Roberts. “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. Authorities and energy company officials have not yet named the man whose body was found by divers Saturday night. Another worker was still unaccounted for Sunday.

Black Elk Energy President and CEO John Hoffman said that man’s body was discovered under the platform, on the sea floor. He was one of two crew members who went missing after the explosion and subsequent fire.

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

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

About 28 gallons of fuel spilled into the region, Coast Guard Response Division Chief Ed Cubanski said. An oil sheen reportedly stretched for about a half-mile near the platform.

The injured were airlifted to area hospitals, and nine other crew members were evacuated, according to the Coast Guard.

The cause of the blast remains under investigation.

CNN’s AnneClaire Stapleton contributed to this report.

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