‘Peo­ple should think about the peo­ple who died, who they were’

Nor'wester (Springdale) - - FRONT PAGE - BY ASH­LEY FITZ­PATRICK

Rare pho­tos pro­vided to The Rooms

Archives will in­clude spe­cial col­lec­tion of pho­tos from the Ocean Ranger.

Lloyd Ma­jor found it quiet most nights aboard the Ocean Ranger. He was hired to work the oil rig in 1980 and gen­er­ally did a 12-hour shift, from about 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., 21 days at a time.

He was a medic, but also manned the ra­dio room late nights, as part of the 24-7 op­er­a­tions off­shore east­ern New­found­land and Labrador.

About once a week, crew mem­bers might get a chance at the ra­dio to talk with loved ones at home. They weren’t to be left alone, Ma­jor said, so he found him­self privy to lit­tle joys and hor­rors — per­sonal ups and downs in the lives of his fel­low crew­men.

He hadn’t worked a rig be­fore, he told The Tele­gram Mon­day. And as a medic, he re­calls aid­ing a man whose hand was cut clean through, an­other with a badly bro­ken leg and some 40 peo­ple hit with food poi­son­ing af­ter a din­ner meal gone hor­ri­bly wrong.

Apart from the ra­dio and the clinic, he helped set­tle new­com­ers into the rig’s liv­ing quar­ters, loaned books from a per­sonal stash (with the odd Play­boy cir­cu­lat­ing) and acted as a li­ai­son be­tween man­age­ment and the lo­cals aboard.

He knew the crew well. And he took pic­tures on oc­ca­sion. He’s hop­ing his do­nated col­lec­tion of pho­tos to The Rooms, with a few show­ing smil­ing faces and men at ease, will help ev­ery­one to re­mem­ber the in­di­vid­u­als who died when the rig was lost.

“(Peo­ple) should think about the peo­ple who died, who they were,” he said.

His own last day aboard was Feb. 11, 1982. He was flown home af­ter his reg­u­lar shift.

A few days later, on Feb. 15, the Ocean Ranger was re­port­ing list­ing by 1 a.m. Min­utes af­ter, may­day calls went out. Be­fore 2 a.m., a trans­mis­sion re­ported crew head­ing to lifeboat sta­tions. At home, Ma­jor awoke to the news. All of the 84 men who were on the rig at the time were killed.

Ma­jor was called from his home in Dunville to St. John’s, where he was sent to a build­ing on the wa­ter­front to help iden­tify bod­ies that were be­ing found and brought in.

[One of N.L.’s most tragic sto­ries is still be­ing told 35 years on]

Boats came with one or two bod­ies at a time, bring­ing them into the makeshift morgue. Over the course of two days, 22 of the de­ceased were found.

“It was grue­some,” Ma­jor said, re­call­ing leav­ing the lo­ca­tion for a cou­ple of hours to rest at a ho­tel, only to be called back again. “You had com­pa­nies down there. Men were hurt, cry­ing some, some were up­set and you had to deal with that.”

Along with his pic­tures, he has pro­vided The Rooms with the crew list he was work­ing from at the time. It shows high­lighted names — peo­ple he per­son­ally iden­ti­fied. There are also notes on the pages, about fam­ily mem­bers who were con­tacted and were on their way.

[Pho­tos bring back sad mem­o­ries for for­mer Tele­gram photographer]

The list is a re­minder of the reach of the dis­as­ter. One name is an en­gi­neer from Mount Pearl, oth­ers a crane op­er­a­tor from Arnold’s Cove, a medic from Nor­ris Point — just some of the home­towns (56 men were from this prov­ince). There were also men from other parts of Canada and the United Stated, in­clud­ing a der­rick­man from Con­necti­cut and a driller from Louisiana, to name two.

In the days fol­low­ing, a great deal of time was re­quired to re­turn bod­ies to their homes and fam­i­lies, Ma­jor said.

He was called on to tes­tify at the in­quiry that fol­lowed. The process was not easy, but he said he has seen the value in the end, given the fi­nal re­port’s note of the need for im­prove­ments in off­shore safety stan­dards and in safety train­ing. He is pleased far greater re­quire­ments are in place to­day.

Af­ter his time on the rig, Ma­jor went to work for the Cana­dian Coast Guard.

Asked why he is now do­nat­ing his pho­tos from the Ocean Ranger to the pro­vin­cial archives, his an­swer was sim­ple. They were just sit­ting on a dresser.

“If I died to­mor­row, some­one might throw them in the garbage,” he said.

His pho­tos will join an­other col­lec­tion rel­a­tively new to the archives, taken by David Boutcher, an­other rig worker. Boutcher was killed in the Ocean Ranger dis­as­ter. His mother do­nated the pho­tos in 2015.

Who’s that?

Where’s that?

To­gether, two col­lec­tions do­nated to The Rooms in­clude about 100 per­sonal pho­tos from the Ocean Ranger, with pro­vin­cial ar­chiv­ists still try­ing to iden­tify some of the men pic­tured. Af­ter reach­ing out di­rectly to fam­i­lies, the ar­chiv­ists are now ask­ing any­one who might help with the iden­ti­fi­ca­tions, or who might of­fer some con­text to the im­ages, to spare the time for a look.

The man­ager of col­lec­tions and projects at The Rooms, Larry Do­hey said any­one can drop by The Rooms to see the pic­tures on re­quest.


Lloyd Ma­jor was at The Rooms in St. John’s Mon­day, where his col­lec­tion of pho­tos from the Ocean Ranger have been placed in the archives. Ma­jor worked on the oil rig, re­turn­ing.


The Ocean Ranger der­rick

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