Sabine Pass rig worker’s death required divers’ aid

Published 9:50 am Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A fatal rig accident caused authorities to arrive on scene and conduct an underwater search for the body of a Port Arthur worker in Sabine Pass.

The accident occurred on Tuesday morning in the 5500 block of South First Avenue when Ramiro Ayala, 40, fell about 100 feet into the water. He was working on the decommissioned oil rig, Sovereign Explorer, at the time of the accident.

Ayala was employed with ERSI.

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Fire Marshal for the Port Arthur Fire Department, Paul Washburn, said they received the phone call regarding the incident shortly after 9 a.m.

“Workers thought they saw him fall,” the fire marshal said.

The PAFD and Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department each issued a boat to aid in search efforts while the U.S. Coast Guard sent out two boats.

“Divers on the scene have to be careful due to hazards in the water,” Washburn said when explaining why PAFD divers had to go in two two-man teams.

Obstacles like poor visibility and scattered debris in the water hindered search efforts and made conditions “extremely dangerous for the divers,” according to Washburn.

In addition, a company crane had to be used to remove remains of a catwalk and other wreckage that had fallen with Ayala and had likely become entangled with the body.

Around 3 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, Ayala’s body was recovered from the water.

“Apparently, he had used safety equipment,” Washburn said, although the exact details of what caused him to fall were still unknown.

Ayala’s family has been notified; and, as of Tuesday evening, OSHA or Occupational Safety and Health Administration were onsite looking into it.

“We’re wrapping up search and recovery and shifting into investigation,” Washburn said.

The investigation is ongoing.