A Significant Casualty
In a perfect world a story such as I am about to relate could never have happened and would never have needed to be told, but this is not a perfect world and life does not always treat us in the manner to which we feel we deserve. We have become accustomed to accepting mediocrity and bureaucratic incompetence. Indifference and ambivalence are becoming the accepted norm. We live in a democratic society where less than half the eligible members actually participate and as a result the officials we elect owe more allegiance to the special interests that fund and support them than to the constituents they purport to represent. As a result we have enabled a system to exist where the interests of business overshadow the rights of the individual—a system where we permit industry to write the regulations intended to control their activities. We live in a society where human life is measured and analyzed compared and evaluated against the cost of doing business, where litigators feed on the misery of others while doing little to prevent the carnage on which they feed and depend. While a “kinder and gentler” government stands idly by protecting the special interests that feed the political system while hiding behind “cost to benefit” studies to justify their inaction. Under current United States Coast Guard policy a “Significant Casualty” is one that may involve multiple deaths, the loss of a ship of five hundred gross tons or larger or one that if properly investigated could lead to the implementation of changes in current standards of safety. And it is only these “Significant Casualties” that by regulation merit proper investigation. The following is a story of a young man who went off to work one morning never to return. But mostly it is the story of a man who like all men should never be allowed to be remembered as only another statistic. This is the story of one such Significant Casualty. The five-year quest receives a final punctuation when the father is granted “Party in Interest” status and has his son’s case properly reviewed at a formal United States Coast Guard Investigation. An Investigation that not only looks to the fatality but at the regulatory atmosphere that allowed the conditions to exist. The story is timely as it highlights not only a father’s quest to clear his son but also the illegal and improper inspection of oil drilling facilities in the US Gulf of Mexico. According to World Oil (Feb 2010 issue) at the end of 2009 there were 2,237 oil wells in the Federal waters of the Gulf and 242 more in the state waters of Louisiana. All working under regulations written by the industry. An industry more interested in profits than safety. In April of 2010, President Barack Obama, while addressing the issues surrounding mine safely following the deaths in West Virginia, was quoted as saying, “A failure first and foremost of management, a failure of oversight and a failure of laws so riddled with loopholes that companies repeatedly can violate safety regulations without penalty.” Those same comments ring true for the oil drilling companies of this country. As horrific as the mine disaster was in West Virginia, more workers die in the underwater workplace each year then do in all the nation’s mines.
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