The Firm . Attorney:Tests Should Have Stopped Work on Doomed Rig


Attorney:Tests Should Have Stopped Work on Doomed Rig

HOUSTON -- A Houston attorney representing a contractor on board the Deepwater Horizon the day it exploded said he has documents proving the doomed well failed two key pressure tests just hours before the first blast hit the rig, KPRC Local 2 Investigates reported Wednesday.

Attorney Tony Buzbee represents Christopher Haire, a cement contractor for Halliburton. Buzbee said Haire performed two negative pressures on the well. These tests determine whether pressure in the well is stable and no fluids are flowing back to the surface.

"There's no doubt about that neither test was successful. There's no doubt about that," said Buzbee. "We have the documents to show that."

Buzbee said Haire reported the results to BP and Transocean officials, which some employees on the rig have testified sparked a debate on the drilling floor. Still, BP officials have reported they felt the results of the second test showed the well was stable and they could proceed with well operations. Buzbee said Haire was not part of the final discussion regarding the test results.

Testimony before a marine board investigating this accident showed the first explosion happened roughly three hours after the discussion regarding the results of the second test. Haire also provided testimony to the marine board during a first round of hearings in May.

"There was a critical moment when BP and Transocean could have stopped this," said Buzbee. "They could have shut the well in then. There was no doubt. Every expert will tell you the well could have been shut in then."

Buzbee also represents 18 survivors of the Deepwater Horizon, many of whom lost friends when 11 crewmembers died during the April 20 explosion. Buzbee said the workers are employees of Halliburton, Transocean and other contractors working aboard the rig. Buzbee said all 18 are now in Houston with their families undergoing a month long treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Buzbee would not disclose the location of the treatment facility out of respect for the workers privacy.

"Every individual that I've spoke to has real, legitimate, in some cases debilitating post traumatic stress syndrome," said Buzbee. "You're talking about guys who made their entire living off shore who are terrified to no only go off shore, but lighting their (barbecue) grills and just everyday tasks.

The marine board investigating the accident is composed of members of the U.S. Coast Guard and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the federal agency that oversees off shore drilling. The panel has subpoenaed three men believed to have knowledge of that final discussion regarding the results of the negative tests; BP's Donald Vidrine and Robert Kaluza and Transocean's Wyman Wheeler. Both Vidrine and Wheeler were absent from testimony citing medical reasons. Kaluza's attorney informed the panel his client was invoking his Fifth Amendment rights not to answer questions.

The offshore installation manager for the rig, Transocean employee Jimmy Harrell, testified last month he felt the results of the second negative test showed well operations could proceed.


Robert Arnold
NBC-KPRC Houston
July 21, 2010