Friday, February 16, 2007

Reflections on the 'Ocean Ranger'

I was a young journalist - just 25 years old - when the 'Ocean Ranger' was lost. However, I was working the entertainment beat at 'The Newfoundland Herald' so I was not chasing the story the way my colleagues were; I watched it unfold more as a citizen than a reporter.

Word filtered out slowly about the severity of the incident and I became aware - one person at a time - that I knew four people on the rig. They were Ron Heffernan, Derek Holden, Ted Stapleton and Greg Tiller; all from Mount Pearl, where I grew up.

Of the four, I knew Ron Heffernan the best. He was one of the crowd I hung with at The Shack, a teenage hang-out where many, many Blue Star, India and Dominion mysteriously evaporated, though none of us were old enough to buy it. I saw less of Ron when we all finished high school, and the shack was abandoned for Chevy Novas and souped-up vans with plush interiors. I last saw Ron at The Roxy nightclub, some months before the Ocean Ranger went down. I asked him what he was doing.

"Working on the Ocean Danger," he said.

"You mean... the Ranger?"

"Yeah... but we calls it the Danger. Man, that place is scary."

I forget precisely what his complaints were, though I formed the distinct impression that safety was not a priority for the rig owners. I still get goosebumps when I recall that encounter.

Even more chilling is the poem by Greg Tiller, which foretold the disaster - and thus his own death - in a most eloquent way. I have been scouring my files trying to find a copy, but no luck yet. When I unearth it I will post it here, as an update. (And if any readers have a copy, I would be grateful if you could email it to me.)

For more on the Ocean Ranger, check the 'How Journalists Deal With Death' post in the archives below.

1 comment:

Steve said...

A pretty dark day in Newfoundland's and indeed Mt. Pearl's history. I too knew the guys from Mt. Pearl with Greg being the closest.

Like Ron he often referred to the rig as the "danger". The last time I saw him we were bomin' around the Pearl in his Selica, and he told me that he went out and doubled his life insurance policy. He left the day after for his final trip. He saw it coming. And then of course the poem...

Thanks for the post.

Steve Porter