GALVESTON, Texas — The 15 men and women who died in last year’s explosion at the BP Texas City Refinery will be remembered today when their relatives and loved ones, along with the most seriously injured survivors and their family members, visit the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston to commemorate a new fund established in memory of those who died.

The Remembering the 15 Fund for Burn Research, Education and Clinical Care will be established with an initial $12.5 million donation made in connection with the settlement between Eva Rowe, 22, who lost parents James and Linda Rowe in the explosion, and BP Products North America Inc.

BP has also committed, in connection with the settlement, to a matching gift of up to $2 million for every additional philanthropic dollar UTMB secures toward the gift over the next six months. The resulting total of $16.5 million will directly benefit adult patients treated in UTMB’s Blocker Burn Unit and help improve outcomes for patients worldwide who suffer severe traumatic injury or burns.

Eva Rowe will join Dr. David N. Herndon, director of UTMB’s Truman G. Blocker Burn Unit and chief of staff of the Shriners Hospitals for Children–Galveston, UTMB President John D. Stobo and UTMB Vice President and CEO for Hospitals and Clinics Karen H. Sexton in detailing the medical advances the endowment is expected to support.

“It was always important to me and to the hundreds of people who were directly affected by what happened at Texas City that something good come from this tragedy,” Rowe said. “On that day, and in the weeks afterwards, the dedicated men and women at UTMB worked tirelessly to save so many lives. I’m proud to be here today with Dr. Herndon and President Stobo to announce the Remembering the 15 Fund, which will ensure that the Blocker Burn Unit at UTMB remains at the forefront of care for burn victims. I personally invite others to contribute to the fund and support UTMB, which is an important part of our community.”

“The memory of the victims of this tragedy will be well-honored by this fund, which will improve the survival and outcome of burned workers throughout the world in perpetuity,” Herndon said. “The funding will be used to support scientists and clinicians with particular expertise in adult burn care, to help ensure that patients with severe burns can lead healthy and productive lives.”

Twenty-three of the most critically injured workers from the explosion were treated at UTMB. All 23 survived.

“UTMB is honored to have played a role in responding to the events of March 23, 2005,” Sexton said. “This fund memorializes those who lost their lives in the tragedy. It also recognizes the extraordinary work of emergency, critical care and burn unit personnel, and will ultimately enhance their ability to successfully treat adults who have suffered serious burns.”

The initial $12.5 million gift is the largest donation ever made to the adult burn program at UTMB. Rowe has established a Web site, to help raise the $2 million in philanthropic contributions that BP will match dollar for dollar.

“We extend our deepest gratitude to Ms. Rowe and BP for their support of our premiere burn program,” Stobo said. “This contribution will enable us to conduct research and educate future specialists in order to improve the standard of care for burn patients throughout the world, and it will benefit this important field of endeavor for generations to come.”

The Truman G. Blocker Burn Unit specializes in the treatment of thermal, chemical and radiation burns, as well as research related to burns, trauma, sepsis and tissue repair. It has one of the highest survival rates for patients with major burn injury of all the hospitals in the United States, with a greater than 50 percent survival rate for people under the age of 65 who receive burns over 70 percent of their bodies.

The unit is named for Dr. Truman G. Blocker, a pioneer in trauma and burn care. Blocker, a plastic surgeon and later UTMB’s first president, conceived of a specialized burn unit after his experiences in World War II and the catastrophic 1947 explosion of a freighter in Texas City. His vision grew into a multidisciplinary program of education, clinical care and research that has set the standard of care for burn patients worldwide.

Blocker was also instrumental in forging UTMB’s long-standing and continuing partnership with the Shriners of North America, which opened the first of its renowned pediatric burn hospitals adjacent to the UTMB campus in 1966. In 1996, UTMB became the first U.S. burn center to be certified by both the American College of Surgeons and the American Burn Association.
The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
Public Affairs Office
301 University Boulevard, Suite 3.102
Galveston, Texas 77555-0144