By Kathy Finn
NEW ORLEANS, March 25 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
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
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