x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Six oil rig crash victims identified

The families of all but one of the victims of Thursday's helicopter crash off the coast of Dubai are told of their loss.

Resilient is located 50km from Dubai's coast.
Resilient is located 50km from Dubai's coast.

DUBAI // The families of all but one of the victims of Thursday's helicopter crash off the coast of Dubai have been told of their loss. Seven people died when their helicopter, a Bell 212 operated by the Dubai-based firm Aerogulf Services, crashed into an oil rig shortly after take-off on Wednesday night. A secretary at the offices of Aerogulf said yesterday that the company's British manager, Chris Brown, had been piloting the helicopter and was among the dead. The company released no further details.

Production on the platform, which serves the Rashid oil field controlled by Dubai Petroleum, ceased following the crash and remained halted on Sunday. A spokesman for Petrofac Ltd, which operates drilling platforms in the Gulf for Dubai Petroleum, said workers were continuing to examine the jackup rig and that work had not yet resumed. "They are still going through the process to ensure the rig is at an operationally ready state," said the spokesman, Foreign media reports named two of the passengers killed in the crash as Diosdado Buhangin, 48, of the Philippines, a petroleum technician and father of five, and Julias Pereira, 37, a materials co-ordinator from India. The other victims are believed to be the Venezuelan co-pilot of the helicopter, an American, a Pakistani and an Indian. All of the passengers were contract workers for Dubai Petroleum, which owns the oil rig where the accident took place.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a source at Dubai Petroleum said the family of the second Indian victim lived in a remote part of the country, which made it difficult to inform them of his death. He said the helicopter was on a "round trip" flight from Dubai International Airport, and had dropped off some passengers on the rig before taking off for another drilling platform. "There is obviously the need to establish exactly what caused this, and with the police being involved the company has to be open about everything so as to establish just what occurred in the minutes before the crash," he said.

"It is unlikely that will be known this week for the obvious reason that those who saw exactly what happened are now dead - they are having to rely almost entirely on physical evidence." Initial reports said the helicopter hit a crane on the oil rig seconds after take-off, broke in two and burst into flames. Police were still conducting DNA tests on some of the bodies, which were badly burnt by the fire. A police source said they had established the names of the dead but were running the tests to ensure that the correct bodies were returned to their families.

Police and the General Civil Aviation Authority began an investigation into the crash, which is expected to take many weeks. Speaking to ANC Prime News in the Philippines at the weekend, Diosdado Buhangin's wife, Vilma, said her husband had been working in Dubai for the past six years. "I became hysterical when I learnt he had died," she said. "He last visited the Philippines in August." She said she was worried for the future of her five children, who are all in school, despite offers of assistance from his company. She also appealed to the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration for help in repatriating his body.

In India, relatives and friends of Julias Pereira spoke of their distress at the news of his death. "Julias was a simple and hardworking man. This is a big shock to all of us," said a friend, adding that Pereira had been in Dubai for about a year and was due to celebrate his birthday at the end of this month.

gmcclenaghan@thenational.ae shafez@thenational.ae * with agencies