BP Makes First Explosion-Related Donation to UTMB

A month after a financial settlement between oil giant BP and a woman who lost her parents in the March 2005 Texas City refinery explosion, a new fund will begin helping burn patients at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams explains.

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"Burn patients come first to this area, where their wounds are washed."

At the Truman G. Blocker Burn Unit at UTMB, director Dr. David Herndon is standing in a room that many burn patients fear. Huge stainless steel tubs are the first stop for burn victims, the beginning of a long and difficult healing process. As part of the BP settlement with Eva Rowe, who lost her parents, James and Linda Rowe in the Texas City explosion, burn treatment at UTMB is getting a $12.5 million boost, a donation from the company that will further burn care education.

"This $12.5 million gift will help tremendously in improving burn care, I think, in the world, by educating doctors, getting the best and the brightest to this institution to do research and to be sent back out to teach and educate and improve burn care not only here in Galveston, but everywhere in the world."

The money makes up The Remembering the 15 Fund For Burn Research, Education and Clinical Care, the first part of an endowment set-up in memory of the 15 victims of the explosion. UTMB President Dr. John Stobo says it's a bittersweet day.

"Our hearts go out to those that lost loved ones, whose loved ones were injured during that explosion, but we're glad that some good could come out of this. The money that Eva made available and BP made available as part of the settlement will do great good in terms of advancing research, education and patient care related to burns and other traumatic injuries."

The $12.5 million is only part of the $32 million BP has pledged to a number of institutions, a deal that Eva Rowe insisted on before she would settle her civil lawsuit against BP. She says it's good to see something good coming from a tragic event.

"It's definitely a kind of closure and I'm glad to be part of it. I would give all of this away to have my family back, but I can't bring them back so I have to do all I can now to change the world and make a difference you know."

Roger Rodriguez lost his son Ryan in the explosion and settled out of court with BP. He says although it's hard to forgive, he's glad that future burn victims will benefit from the new UTMB fund.

"I've had a lot of animosity toward BP and the individuals that were negligent that day, but at the same time I"m also grateful that they pledged this money toward the burn center as well as the other charities."

BP has also agreed to a $2 million matching gift to UTMB that could increase the total donation to more than $16.5 million.

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