Nfld. & Labrador

Ocean Ranger sinking still haunts 30 years later

The violent storm that sank the Ocean Ranger, killing 84 men, still haunts people 30 years after the disaster on the Grand Banks east of Newfoundland.

Tragedy east of Newfoundland that killed 84 led to offshore safety improvements

The violent storm that sank the Ocean Ranger, killing 84 men, still haunts people 30 years after the disaster on the Grand Banks east of Newfoundland.

Poor training, faulty design and inadequate equipment were no match for 30-metre waves and 160-kilometre winds.

A ceremony to remember the tragedy was held in St. John's on Wednesday morning. 

Actor Andy Jones, who is in a play in St. John's called Rig, based on a book about the disaster written by Mike Heffernan, said the February 1982 storm is still affecting people in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"I can't help when hearing the stories of thinking of how close people came to surviving. Every time I hear the show, I think, 'Oh God, if only these guys had a bit of training … you know, if only, if only,'" said Jones.

Rig explores Canada’s worst tragedy at sea since World War II, a dark chapter in what was supposed to be the beginning of Newfoundland's golden oil age.

Royal commission followed disaster

A month after the rig capsized, the federal and provincial governments appointed a royal commission, chaired by former Newfoundland and Labrador chief justice Alex Hickman, to investigate what happened and what improvements could be made to avoid future offshore disasters.

Many of the recommendations in his report have been followed, including advice that safety training must be mandatory for all offshore oil industry workers.

Sociologist Doug House has researched the impact and evolution of the offshore oil industry in Newfoundland and Labrador, and said marine safety and standards have improved.

"I remember talking to people who worked on those early rigs that were here ... particularly American ones that were here. They had this type of cowboy frontier attitude towards things. I don't think that applies anymore," he said.

The Ocean Ranger was the second of three offshore oil disasters during the 1980s – the other two were in the North Sea, near the U.K.