By Nicholas Sheble
Two BP engineers face criminal charges in a court case starting this week relating to the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion in 2010. They were on the facility when it blew.
Don Vidrine, 65, and Robert Kaluza, 63, will appear in U.S. District Court in New Orleans November 28 to face charges including seaman’s manslaughter that could send them to prison for a decade or more.
The charge of seaman’s manslaughter comes from an 1830s-era law protecting sailors from dangerous decisions made by captains or crewmembers.
On the day of the explosion, they apparently made what turned out to be a catastrophic misjudgment about a critical safety test. They oversaw a final pressure test to determine whether cement pumped into the well to seal it off was holding back oil and gas more than three miles below the sea floor.
The U.S. government is saying their failure to properly interpret that safety test caused the deadly blowout killing 11 people and causing the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
The indictment said “by failing to contact onshore engineers about troubling readings the men saw from multiple negative pressure tests on the day of the accident, accepting nonsensical explanations for the results from others and failing to fully investigate the anomalies, the negligent and grossly-negligent conduct of defendants Kaluza and Vidrine proximately caused the deaths.”
Nicholas Sheble (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an engineering writer and technical editor in Raleigh, NC.