BP oil spill: harrowing escapes of Deepwater Horizon survivors
With hearings into the Deepwater Horizon accident ongoing in Louisiana and Washington, survivors' tales are coming out. They paint a picture of chaos and desperation after the explosion and offer hints about what might have caused the BP oil spill.
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Mr. Brown, the engine room’s acting second engineer, heard screams and shouts as he lay stunned in debris. He tried to stand up. A second explosion caved the ceiling in on his head. He heard more screams and began to panic. A fellow worker was crawling towards him through the wreckage yelling that he was hurt and needed to find a way out.
They made it out to a lifeboat deck through an engine room hatch that had been blown open. Outside was chaos. Survivors were crying they did not want to die. The drilling derrick was completely aflame, like a giant pine engulfed by a forest fire.
IN PICTURES: Louisiana oil spill
“The heat from the fire was incredibly hot on my body,” wrote Brown in a statement submitted to the House Judiciary Committee.
The stories of survivors are beginning to fill in a vivid picture of the last moments of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.
These eyewitness accounts may not pinpoint the cause of the rig’s disastrous demise. But as they come out, in hearings in Washington and Louisiana, they are providing some valuable hints about what might have happened.
Brown, for instance, says he heard a hissing noise, and gas alarms, before the explosion. The rig’s engines, which supplied power for all its operations, had begun to rev out of control.
Jimmy Harrell: There were no walls left
Jimmy Harrell, for his part, was in the shower. Mr. Harrell was the top drilling official on board the Deepwater Horizon, working for the rig’s owner, Transocean.
The first explosion rocked the crew quarters, Harrell told a joint Coast Guard and Interior Department hearing in Kenner, La., on Thursday. He smelled methane gas, and felt a strong back draft. About three seconds later the second explosion occurred.
Harrell’s eyes were stinging from the gas and bits of insulation that had been blown into them. There were no walls or ceilings left in the bathroom. “Everything was tore up in there,” Harrell told the joint panel in his laconic southern drawl.
He pulled on clothes and headed for the rig bridge. He could tell there was fire outside even from within the crew quarters. He reached the bridge in minutes, and he could tell immediately that fire was not the Deepwater Horizon’s only problem. The lights on the control panel were not right. They were not showing that the blowout preventer had worked.
“I expected to see the annular [blowout] preventer closed, and the diverter closed,” he told the hearing Thursday.
He still had things in his eyes, so he could not be certain.