Oilfield worker praises too often unsung

It is with great sadness that we present the news in this issue of a fatal helicopter crash that occurred near Galliano Sunday afternoon, claiming the life of a career oilfield worker as well as the aircraft’s pilot.

Details on the crash of the Bell 407 are scare at this point. The National Transportation Safety Board, the lead agency handling the case, has just begun an investigation. Bristow, the company that owns and which operated the aircraft, has pledged full cooperation with the ensuing investigation, and has actively been involved in the efforts to recover the remains of its pilot, who has not been identified as of this writing.

The sole passenger on the helicopter, identified as Nick Duplantis, has been described by those who knew him as a devoted family man, the father of three children whom he accompanied with his wife and family friends to Disney World recently, and had a new position on the oil and gas platform where he worked two-week stints of which he was very proud.

There are all kinds of heroes in our communities. Some wear uniforms – like the rescue workers who searched for and recovered Nick Duplantis from the marsh – and others wear coveralls.

Nick Duplantis was a hero, not because he is no longer of this earth but because of what he accomplished while still with us. He is a hero just like every other worker in the Louisiana oilfield is, and this is how they should be unwaveringly considered.

Day after day men and women who work the oilfield dedicate themselves to an energy industry that is not always easy to work in. They endure extremes of the elements, sometimes molar-jarring boat trips to their work sites, and countless helicopter trips as well, which are not always pleasant.

But they do what they do because they have families to feed. They do what they do because they believe in the industry they work for. It is their work that has made the U.S. a global leader in energy. It is their work that is the reason we can operate our cars and trucks and boats and planes, and if this sounds incredibly simple it is because, bottom line, it truly is that simple. Men and women in coveralls make this nation work, light its lights and make wheels roll.

Yet here in the Bayou Region there is not a single statue dedicated these men and women, as there is no such memorial to their fellow workers on the water, the region’s commercial fishermen.

We think both are routinely taken for granted and that it is time for our communities to consider how best to memorialize these hard-working, salt-of-the-earth people, who are not afraid to get their hands, faces and clothes dirty in furtherance of their laudable work.

Sometimes the oilfield workers among us face great danger. At no time was this more obvious than 2010’s Deepwater Horizon disaster, which claimed the lives of eleven workers, whose songs have been well-sung but can never be sung enough.

It is easy with disasters to play the numbers game, to mourn the loss of many at one time and pause less often for the small, individual tragedies that rob us of workers like Nick Duplantis, whose families, like his family, are the support and backup for these heroes.

Among the heroes are those who transport these workers. We don’t yet know the name of the pilot who was flying the chopper that went down Sunday. But if he was anything like the pilots we have come to know in these industries over the years, we are certain he was a man of dedication and conscience.

We hope you will join us in saying a prayer of comfort for the families of the men lost this weekend, and for all of the men and women who dedicate themselves to this difficult business of energy extraction. They deserve our good wishes and our praise.

Perhaps at some time in the future our communities will find suitable ways to honor these men and women who work in the oilfield. Until then our simple and barely adequate words will have to do.