deepwater horizon disaster

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By Kathy Finn

NEW ORLEANS, March 25 (Reuters) – The officer in charge of safety on Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, destroyed in a BP well accident that caused the worst-ever U.S. offshore oil spill, said the post-blowout fire was too big to fight and the evacuation saved lives.

In the fifth week of a trial to apportion blame among BP Plc , Transocean Ltd and other contractors for the Macondo oil well disaster, David Young, the rig’s chief mate, said the captain told him to do whatever he needed to do to get the fire on April 20, 2010, under control.

“I pulled him outside and showed him the size of the fire we were dealing with and … basically told him we couldn’t fight that fire,” Young said on Monday in a New Orleans federal court before U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier.

Young then helped load injured and other crew into lifeboats and rafts before jumping into a raft himself, he said. Later, he and others in his raft were pulled onto one of the lifeboats.

“Do you believe the Deepwater Horizon’s emergency training saved lives that night?” Transocean attorney Luis Li asked.

“I do, because we got 115 people off,” Young replied.

Eleven workers died as a result of the blowout and fire, and more than 4 million barrels of oil gushed into the Gulf from the damaged well. BP and its contractors are being sued by the U.S. Justice Department along with the Gulf states, companies and individuals affected.

Transocean’s chief executive testified last week that his workers made mistakes that day, but were not responsible for overall safety at the site. While BP accepts its role in the accident, it believes Transocean and well-cementing provider Halliburton Co share the blame.

Young, who worked on the Deepwater Horizon for 3-1/2 years, oversaw equipment maintenance and all “marine aspects” of the rig, including firefighting and lifesaving equipment, while the captain had overall responsibility for rig safety. Young said the first priority of all the rig managers was “for everybody to go home safely, back to their families.”

In cross-examination, plaintiffs’ attorney Jim Roy asked why it was Young, rather than rig captain Curt Kuchta, who pushed the button to sound the general alarm as he left the bridge.

“Isn’t the truth, sir, that you were tired of waiting for the captain or anybody else to sound the general alarm,” Roy asked, “and for the safety of yourself and the crew you decided you’re going to hit it?”

Young responded: “No, there was nothing to get tired of, so I wouldn’t agree with that.”

Transocean has pleaded guilty to federal charges connected with Clean Water Act violations and agreed to pay $1.4 billion in criminal and civil fines and penalties.

In the civil case before Barbier, the companies must show any mistakes do not meet the legal definition of gross negligence required for the highest amount of damages. BP has already spent or committed $37 billion for cleanup, restoration, payouts, settlements and fines.

Transocean is expected to call its final witnesses on Tuesday, beginning with Bill Ambrose, Transocean’s director of special projects. Other defendants then will begin calling their witnesses.

The case is In re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig “Deepwater Horizon” in the Gulf of Mexico, on April 20, 2010, No. 10-md-02179, in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana.

(c) 2013 Thomson Reuters, Click For Restrictions

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  • Damn Yankee

    Criminalization of the seafarer. I don’t know if I could keep my cool in a courtroom with a bunch of lawyers telling me I didn’t do enough. This guy had 3.5 years on this rig. He knew the firefighting capabilities and any fire with a steady supply of fuel is a no brainer. It’s going to burn! Good for him. Any decision that saves lives was the right decision.

  • Ben

    Wow!! I wasn’t expecting the chief mate to throw the captain under the bus like this. I wouldn’t be surprised if “Captain” Young’s and webster’s testimony resulted in a prison term for the captain?

  • Ben

    And why wasn’t all this info in “captain” Young’s testimony to the USCG? I smell something fishy. Maybe Transocean’s lawyers have got to young since the last testimony, it wouldn’t be the first time company lawyers have turned the crew against a captain.

    I hope gCaptain defends Kutcha when he gets arrested because of this self-grandizing chief mate.

    • DrillBiter

      What the F r u talking about Ben?

      Young seems to think highly of himself but arrogance isn’t a crime and from what I hear Kutcha did panic so young is clearly protecting him, NOT throwing him under the bus.

      But I think your right, Kutcha will be be charged, and the BP executives will be free to screw up again. It’s a sad world we live in!!!

  • john

    End of the day the Captain still the the Captain. No matter what. Let’s not forget that.

    • Dpmate

      Not if you work for transocean! You’ll never get to be captain offshore if you don’t know your place at the bottom of tge totempole!!

  • Jeb

    Liferafts certs 160days expired!?? Firehoses bursting suring drills!? PM’s overdue!? How does the chief mate explain that?

    Criminilization? No, Sounds more like criminal neglect by the captain and chief mate to me!

    • David

      Life rafts are sent into town to be certified, not done on the rig and fire hoses break when you drill like it’s a real fire and PMs go overdue when Houston makes you switch from one shitty pm system (empac) to another (rms).

      If you want to talk shit about the marine crew then I suggest you head over to rigzone… This here website supports the dwh mariners!!

  • David

    This guy is a hero who told it like it is. The lawyers are the problem not the mariners. How can you deny they got everyone off the rig who didn’t immediately perish including the engineers located on the other side of the flames. Sure safety was lacking but the liferafts worked and chief mates can only do so much without support from Houston.

  • Henning

    Correct, should have never happened, this is straight up on the BP company man and the tool pusher who wouldn’t stand up for himself and what was right. The crew of the rig have nothing to do with the drilling gear or decisions typically.

  • Krishna

    Let me make one statement, Transocean was ex employer. Now to the comment.
    The Mate did a good job that day as I could read in USCG’s report. HOWEVER , his statement as read are 99% polished in protecting Transocean.
    Facts quoted by other reader are clear example that in Oil industry ( NOT JUST TRANSOCEAN in other companies too) Marine safety is always neglected. Always. There is a huge budget for PPE related safety, dropped object which have direct influence on safety statistics;So there is always a big push and direct supervision on such things. However what lies as a ugly underbelly in many rigs across the world is:The marine safety part as in training of Fire fighters,launching facilities,etc., are always neglected and drills carried out ‘for record sake’.
    So reading that mate’s statement is I am sorry it seems like an advertisement for whoever prepared him for the court.

  • Shani Kaiserman

    My brother suggested I might like this blog. He was totally right. This post truly made my day. You cann’t imagine just how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

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