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.