Following an explosion Tuesday night on the British Pretroleum (BP) oil drilling rig known as Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, at least two families have filed lawsuits against BP and the rig’s builders alleging negligence caused the disaster.
Eleven of the 126 crewmembers of the Deepwater Horizon were still missing Friday morning, after the BP drilling platform exploded and caught fire for reasons that are still unknown. The platform burned until Thursday morning, when it collapsed and the massive oil rig plunged into the waters of the Gulf.
There were 115 people on the rig who have been confirmed to have escaped by life boat. At least seventeen of the rescued workers were injured, with three in critical condition. The wounded were flown by air ambulances to hospitals in New Orleans, Louisiana and Mobile, Alabama.
On Thursday, the family of missing worker Shane Roshto filed a lawsuit over the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion against BP and Transocean Ltd. in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District Court of Louisiana. The lawsuit accuses the companies of negligence and failing to meet federal regulations. Another Deepwater Horizon lawsuit was also filed against the companies on behalf of worker Karl Kelppinger Jr. in state court in Harris County.
Officials have indicated that the explosion and sinking oil rig may unleash a catastrophic oil spill in the already environmentally fragile Gulf of Mexico. Coast Guard officials on the scene say it does not appear that such a spill has occurred yet, but they are monitoring the drill’s wellhead and will continue to do so. The Coast Guard warns that if the wellhead does rupture, it could release up to 8,000 barrels of crude oil a day.
The Coast Guard has detected a sheen of oil on the water across a five mile area, but has determined that the oil was blown out by the explosion.
The Deepwater Horizon platform was constructed and owned by Transocean Ltd., and was under lease to BP. The rig was 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana performing exploratory drilling. Officials from Transocean said that workers who escaped the burning platform feared that the 11 missing workers were too close to the initial blast, and may not have escaped.
The potentially deadly explosion comes a few months after the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined BP $77.4 million for safety problems at its Texas oil refinery. A blast in 2005 at the refinery killed 15 people and injured 170 others. OSHA has issued 270 safety notifications in regards to problems at the BP refinery, noting that there were 439 instances of “willful and egregious” safety violations at the facility.