| NEW ORLEANS, March 5
NEW ORLEANS, March 5 Transocean's Randy Ezell is
still haunted nearly three years later by the explosion on the
Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that killed 11 fellow workers and
left him buried in a pile of debris, Ezell testified on Tuesday.
In the second week of a civil trial to determine blame for
the disaster, Ezell said his Transocean colleagues did
everything within their power to control the well, but there was
some misinterpretation of signs of trouble before the blowout.
"I don't really like to talk about it very much," said
Ezell, senior toolpusher on the rig drilling the Gulf of Mexico
well for BP Plc before a blowout triggered the worst
offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
The U.S. Justice Department, the Gulf states affected and
other plaintiffs are suing BP, Transocean and other companies
for economic and environmental damages related to the spill.
In the trial's first testimony in court by an eyewitness,
Ezell said that on the night of April 20, 2010, he was relaxing
in his room after a day's work when a loud explosion knocked him
to the floor and left him buried and dazed in debris.
"The place I'd lived in for a year didn't look or feel
nothing like it had before; nothing felt right," the 57-year-old
career oilfield worker testified in a New Orleans federal court,
before judge Carl Barbier.
BP executives have accepted the company's role in the
accident, but believe Transcoean and well cementing provider
Halliburton Co share the blame.
BP must show that its 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 on
cleanup, restoration, payouts, settlements and fines.
On top of that, liabilities could stretch into the tens of
billions of dollars if Barbier determines BP or the other
defendants were grossly negligent. Oil came ashore from Texas to
Florida, threatening livelihoods and state economies dependent
on seafood and tourism, so the list of plaintiffs is long.
Yet most observers believe the case will be settled before
the trial results in a verdict.
Just the legal costs alone have been enormous for all the
companies involved. On Friday, Transocean disclosed in its
annual report that in the three years through the end of 2012,
the company had incurred $372 million in costs, primarily
associated with legal expenses for lawsuits and investigations.
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
BP faces a separate case over accusations that it committed
fraud by misleading shareholders before and after the spill, and
on Tuesday a trial date was set for Aug. 25, 2014.