A federal grand jury has charged two BP company officials with 11 counts of involuntary manslaughter and 11 counts of seaman's manslaughter for their role in the Deepwater Horizon rig accident that killed 11 workers in 2010 and set off the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine were the two BP "company men" stationed on the rig. The indictment alleges that they were "grossly negligent" in misinterpreting the results of a key test shortly before the well blew out. Kaluza's attorney declined comment until after the Justice Department announces the charges and Vidrine's lawyer has not returned our call.(See indictment)
Kaluza and Vidrine were also charged with a violation of the Clean Water Act.
Sean Clarke, Kaluza's attorney, responded to the charges: " After nearly three years and tens of millions of dollars in investigation, the Government needs a scapegoat.
"Bob was not an executive or high-level BP official. He was a dedicated rig worker who mourns his fallen co-workers every day.
"No one should take any satisfaction in this indictment of an innocent man. This is not justice."
Bob Habens, an attorney representing Vindrine, also responded to the charges against his client: “It is almost inconceiveable that any fair-minded person would blame this hard working and diligent man for one of the most catastrophic events in the history of the oil business.”
Separately, a former BP vice president, David Rainey, has been charged with obstruction of Congress and false statements for manipulating estimates of the amount of oil spilled, withholding the company’s truly scientific estimates and causing BP to stand by an estimate that was 12 times smaller than the real amount of oil coming out of BP’s well. (See indictment)
BP agreed to plead guilty today to 12 felony counts (read the plea agreement) and two misdemeanors for the corporation’s role in the incident. BP put out a statement that said its negligence stemmed from the misinterpretation of the negative pressure test, a check of the subsea well’s structural integrity. But it also said that its guilty plea is consistent with its contention all along that it was all an accident.
The company, in an internal investigation report, pinned most of the blame on Kaluza and Vidrine for their incorrect interpretation of the pressure test results.
But a government investigation clearly found a series of missteps by BP and its drilling contractors Transocean and Halliburton led to the disaster, including cost-cutting, time-saving, risky decisions by BP engineers in Houston.