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Monument dedicated at Shell to men who died

By Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / May 6, 1998

NORCO – The explosion and fire in the Shell Oil catalytic cracker unit on May 5, 1988 was remembered yesterday as a monument to the seven men who died was unveiled.

Private dedication ceremonies for the monument were held at 10 a.m. Thenplant manager Fred Foster and operations superintendent Phil Schwin were invited.

The monument was designed and landscaped by Destrehan High School students, and labor was provided by Norco Construction as part of a communitywide effort to memorialize those Shell employees who lost their lives 10 years ago.

The mini-park includes four grassy areas and four park benches, all facing the new central flagpole in front of the Shell Human Resources Building, once the main office of the refinery.

It will be available for viewing by the public once the Shell River Road Museum opens in a few months.

The base of the flagpole bears a plaque which states: “On May 5, 1988, an explosion occurred at the Cat Cracking Unit which forever changed the lives of Shell Norco employees and the Norco community. This memorial isdedicated to the seven employees who lost their lives.”The seven are then named: Ernie Carrillo, Bill Coles, Lloyd Gregoire, John Moisant, Jimmy Poche, Joey Poirrier and Roland Satterlee.

All except Gregoire had been in the cat cracker unit at the time of the explosion. Gregoire was in an adjacent unit at the time of the 3:30 a.m.disaster.

“I never dreamed I’d be out here, dedicating this monument,” said Morgan Gregoire, an employee at the time of the disaster and a member of the memorial committee. He added he didn’t realize how bad the disaster wasuntil he arrived at work and saw all the windows broken out.

The explosion forced the evacuation of the entire town of Norco, which itself sustained heavy damage to many homes, and injured many residents asleep in their beds.

A class-action lawsuit ended up in a settlement for injured parties for miles around. Reconstruction efforts, on and off the site, took years tocomplete.

Shell spokesman Don Baker added, “We’re trying with this memorial to honor those who lost their lives.”For years employees discussed some sort of lasting memorial, but it was the impending opening of the museum which prompted this effort, launched in September 1997 with the permission of the families of those killed. Chairman was Lilly Acosta-Galland.A second plaque also honors Shell employees and Local 4-750 of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union.

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