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Transocean Horizon Oil Rig Accident & Explosion

The Deepwater Horizion, is a massive oil rig owned by Transocean, Ltd., but leased to British Petroleum  since 2007.  On April 20, 2010, at approximately 10 p.m. while the rig performed drilling operations approximatley 50 miles southeast of Venice, Lousiana, an explosion and raging fire occurred causing crewmembers to be thrown overboard injuring at least 17 and killing appoximately 11 others aboard the vessel.

At the time of the fire the Deepwater Horizon was on BP’s Mississippi Canyon Block 252, referred to as the Macondo prospect, in the U.S. sector of the Gulf of Mexico, about 41 miles off the Louisiana coast.

Guy Cantwell, a spokesman for Vernier, Switzerland-based Transocean, declined to comment on allegations the companies had violated safety rules.

Cantwell said 115 workers — including 17 injured — were evacuated from the Deepwater Horizon, a 10-year-old semisubmersible rig capable of drilling in more than 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) of water. The explosion occurred as the crew was completing the concrete casing of a well drilled to a depth of 18,000 feet, Adrian Rose, Transocean’s vice president for quality, healthy, safety and the environment, said at a New Orleans press conference following the explosion.

Cause ‘Unknown’

“The cause of the fire and explosion is unknown at this time,” the company said in a statement posted April 21 on its Web site. “An investigation into the cause of the incident and assessment of the damage will be ongoing in the days or weeks to come.”

Production casing was being run and cemented at the time of the accident. Once the cementing was done, it was due to be tested for integrity and a cement plug set to abandon the well for later completion as a subsea producer. According to Transocean executive Adrian Rose “undoubtedly abnormal pressure” had accumulated inside the marine riser and as it came up it “expanded rapidly and ignited”, an event known as a blowout.

Incident investigation teams are being assembled by the Coast Guard and the Minerals Management Service of the United States Department of the Interior.   Some experts suspect that well blowout may have been responsible for the catastrophic event.  However, Ted Bourgoyne, professor emeritus in petroleum engineering at Louisiana State University, said it is uncommon for a blowout to happen in such a late stage.

Further, instruments on the rig should have warned of a spike in pressure and told workers to engage the huge blowout preventer that can seal the well at the sea floor.

“I think there was probably equipment failure involved,” he said.

Over 500 fires have been reported on offshore oil rigs since 2006, including nine major fires that killed at least two people and seriously injured twelve others.  Offshore oil exploration remains risky for workers and much more needs to be done to ensure their safety.

Injured maritime workers including offshore workers who work on jack-up rigs, barges, drill ships, crew boats or tother movable vessels, are protected by the Jones Act, a federal law that allows injured maritime workers and their families to recover money damages for their injuries.  In addition, there is legal authority for punitive or exemplary damages under the  Jones Act and General Maritime Law.

These laws are designed to allow an injured worker who is the victim of carelessness to seek compensation for damages.  In addition, the Death on the High Seas Act provides for remedies for wrongful death beyond the territorial waters of a state. At the law firm of Veron Bice, LLC in Lake Charles, Louisiana, our lawyers have one mission: to provide justice for those injured or suffer wrongful death due to acts of carelessness or misconduct.

If you or a family member suffered injury or death due to the Transocean Deepwater Horizon explosion, call our experienced attorneys today.  We can be reached toll free at 337-310-1600.

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