In Their Own Words: Deepwater Horizon


How dangerous it is to work and live on an oil rig became very evident on April 20, 2010, when the Deepwater Horizon exploded, causing the biggest oil spill in the entire history of marine oil drilling operations. It is also considered the largest environmental disaster in US history.

The Deepwater Horizon was a state of the art, semi-submersible oil drilling rig. Owned and operated by Transocean, who leased it out to BP at about half a million dollars per day. It was dynamically positioned by satellite and located off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico.

On April 20, 2010, an explosion occurred at around 10:00 pm. At the time, 126 people were working onboard. At around 9 pm, workers noticed problems down at the rig's well. By 9:40 pm, as they were struggling to seal the well, a massive jolt shook the rig, and combustible gas alarms began to ring. Within minutes, workers heard loud hissing and beeping noises as the engines started to overspeed.

The staff didn't even get the chance to check monitoring systems. Their computers - as well as all the lights - began to explode, plunging parts of the rig into total darkness. They then heard the engines suddenly go silent, and immediately after, a giant explosion ripped through the rig, blowing doors, collapsing walls and ceilings and more.

Methane gas had accumulated and shot up the drill column, igniting instantly. All workers began finding their way to parts of the rig not on fire. It was a harrowing experience for all - it was dark and also very hot. Since the oil well is at the bottom of the rig, the fire can only go up - straight onto them.

The US Coast Guard, alerted by the explosion, arrived with helicopter rescue crews and several lifeboats. However, the heat and oil made it very difficult to evacuate the rig. The helicopters focused on removing the critically injured to safety, flying them away from the rig, across the ocean - while attached to gurneys.

Some of the workers even jumped 75 feet into the water to get away from the disaster. Eventually, they all made it to safety, though 11 rig workers were missing and their bodies never found.

The Deepwater Horizon burned through the next day and a half before collapsing and finally sinking into the ocean. There was no way to save it or put out the fire. There was too much oil, and the only option was to let it burn.

An investigation of the incident took place, and as a result, there are now new regulations to prevent similar accidents from occurring in the future. In the shadow of the biggest industrial disasters in the history of humanity, the 11 missing crew members truly paid the ultimate price.

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