Two BP supervisors have been charged with manslaughter in the Gulf oil disaster in an indictment that accuses them of misinterpreting pressure readings just before the blowout that killed 11 workers.
The United States on Thursday announced charges of involuntary manslaughter and seaman’s manslaughter against Donald Vidrine and Robert Kaluza, report the New York Times and Reuters. According to the indictment, the defendants accepted crew members’ "illogical" explanations for the test results, failed to call engineers onshore to tell them of the problem, and failed to investigate further, causing the "blowout of the well to later occur."
Legal experts told the Times that the charges indicate a return to a practice of prosecuting corporate managers, rather than companies, in industrial accidents. The practice was more common in the 1980s and 1990s, but it had tapered off in recent years.
Lawyers for the two men said they were being scapegoated. Vidrine’s lawyer said many other causes had been identified for the disaster, including negligently designed cement and the failure of a blowout preventer.
Also charged was David Rainey, accused of obstruction of Congress for underestimating the amount of oil gushing from the failed well. His lawyers also criticized the charges and BP’s agreement to an "extortionate settlement."
The settlement calls for BP to pay $4.5 million to resolve federal criminal and securities allegations.
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