Ocean Ranger disaster remembered in annual vigil
Hundreds of people who turned out in St. John's Monday for the annual Ocean Ranger tribute were told to be vigilant in making sure the oil companies responsible for people who work in the offshore put safety ahead of money.
"Faceless oil companies are only concerned with profit," Rev. John Dinn said during a sermon to the people attending the service. "That may not be nice to say here today, but it's true. It's true."
Eighty-four men died when the giant rig sank off Newfoundland's east coast, during a vicious storm in the early morning hours of Feb. 15, 1982.
Fifty-six of them were from Newfoundland and Labrador.
The prayer service has been held at St. Pius X church in St. John's every year on that day since the rig went down. It's organized annually by the staff and students of Gonzaga High School, where five of the men who died attended.
This year's remembrance ceremony was the first to be held since a Cougar helicopter crashed last March while flying offshore workers to oil platforms.
Seventeen people died. Only one person survived.
"The price of oil, once again, is human beings," Dinn said. "It always costs lives to change things in the offshore and it'll probably cost more."
Dinn said emotions are still raw nearly three decades after the Ocean Ranger tragedy, and that he still sees the sadness and grief in the eyes of people who attend the ceremony.
"It has taken, dear friends, another tragedy to get a helicopter in our offshore," he said, referring to an order given to oil companies last week that search and rescue capabilities off the east coast be improved.
"Regardless of what the oil companies pay for this helicopter, the price is lives. And it still would not be there today if that tragedy from Cougar Helicopters had not happened, some 25 years later."
Dinn said it's important that people continue to gather every year to remember tragedies like the sinking of the Ocean Ranger. If not, he said, "nothing will change and justice won't be found for workers who lost their lives in the offshore."
"We cannot bring your loved ones back, but we must protect those who go out and this service must be part of that voice. Justice must prevail. Your loved ones cannot be a number on a big wheel that turns a big oil company."
The ceremony included choirs of young people remembering the people who died through song and the lighting of a candle for every man who was on the rig.