Hearings focus on possible human factors in BP oil spill

BP, the government and an army of volunteers are fighting to contain and clean the millions of gallons of oil spewing from the site of the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.
By David S. Hilzenrath
Washington Post staff writer
Friday, July 23, 2010; 7:07 AM

KENNER, LA. -- Before he died in the April conflagration aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, crew member Shane Roshto shared a dark assessment with his wife.

"From Day One he deemed this hole a well from hell," widow Natalie Roshto told an investigating panel Thursday.

"He said Mother Nature just doesn't want to be drilled here."

Mother Nature aside, the third day of the third round of hearings by a federal board meeting outside New Orleans focused on an array of human factors that may have contributed to one of the worst environmental disasters in history.

The litany included overdue maintenance on critical equipment, a dire warning that went unnoticed by key personnel, and a series of decisions about drilling procedures that allegedly sacrificed safety to save money.

The probe is being conducted by investigators from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement -- the agency formerly known as the Minerals Management Service.

The day's main witness was John Guide, a BP well team leader who oversaw drilling on the Macondo well from BP offices onshore.

Guide was asked about an April 18 report -- two days before the disaster -- from contractor Halliburton concluding that the well had the potential for a severe gas flow problem.

"I didn't even know that that particular piece was in there," Guide said, adding that he never looked at that section of such reports.

He said he and one of the BP leaders on the rig were focused on an attachment to the report dealing with a different topic -- how to cement the well.

The warning, he said, was "just part of" a simulation.

If he had known about the warning, "we would have huddled up and discussed" it, Guide said.

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