Oil Rig & Explosion Anniversary: April 20, 2013

3 Years Since Macondo Tragedy

Last Saturday marked the third anniversary of the disastrous Deepwater Horizon accident. And while the cleanup of the Gulf of Mexico continues, and is the subject of numerous commemorative articles, let’s not forget that the oil spill started with a horrific workplace accident, when an oil rig exploded and caught fire.

The Deepwater Horizon rig was located about 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana, in the Gulf of Mexico. At the time, there were 126 workers on board. At a few minutes before 10 a.m. local time on April 20, 2010, a small fire broke out. According to witnesses, the lights flickered and there were two small vibrations, just before an explosion that was so sudden and so fast, workers had barely five minutes to escape after the alarm went off. The rig was completely engulfed within minutes and burned for almost exactly two days before it fell into the ocean. According to investigators, the explosion and fire were triggered by a methane bubble that shot up through the drill column and exploded as it reached the top.

That wasn’t the first accident to cause a fire on the Deepwater Horizon rig. Between 2000 and the date of the explosion, the Coast Guard had investigated 16 fires and other incidents, and issued pollution citations 18 times. In one incident in 2008, 77 workers had to be evacuated from the platform when it began to list and almost sank, when a pipe had been accidentally removed from the rig’s ballast system.

The rig was beset with problems before the final explosion and fire. In the months before the final explosion, engineers reported numerous mechanical problems with the rig, including sudden unexplained gas releases, and at least three instances in which the blowout protector leaked fluid. It was later found out that a March 2010 accident in which the blowout preventer was damaged went unreported. A series of emails and memos showed that officials with BP and Halliburton were aware of a problem with the well casing, and despite being told that cementing of the casing was unlikely to work, Halliburton went ahead with it anyway. The company had finished cementing just 20 hours before the fire.

It was also reported that a number of the rig’s workers had concerns about some of the drilling practices, but they were afraid to report problems for fear of being fired for doing so. A confidential survey that rig owner Transocean had commissioned several weeks before bears this out. Specifically, the survey showed that workers were concerned “about poor equipment reliability, which they believed was a result of drilling priorities taking precedence over maintenance.”

In all, 11 workers died and 16 workers were injured that day, and based on the investigations conducted to date, it’s quite possible that these workers died because someone took shortcuts with regard to worker safety. If you or a loved one have been injured or killed because of a fire on an oil rig, call the Texas Oil Rig Injury Lawyer at Hill Law Firm today.


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