Family Blames BP for Terrorist Killing
HOUSTON (CN) - Terrorists killed a Texan at BP's Algerian gas plant after BP denied him access to its wireless network, "cutting off his ability to receive texts and news updates that allowed others to stay hidden and survive the attack," his family claims in court.
Survivors of Frederick Martin Buttaccio sued BP America and affiliates and BP executive Mark Cobb in Harris County Court.
BP employed Buttaccio as a contractor at its natural gas plant outside In Amenas, Algeria, a town in eastern Algeria close to the Libyan border.
Al-Qaeda linked terrorists raided the plant in the early morning of Jan. 16, 2013.
"Gunfire and shouting could be heard throughout the base de vie where the workers were housed," the complaint states.
Buttaccio was waiting in the living quarters to catch a bus ride to work with other contractors when he heard the gunfire and shouting.
"After the gunfire and shouting had broken the stillness of the desert night, Mr. Buttaccio, along with several other workers from the Philippines and two guards who were Algerian nationals, ran to a guard shack and hid," the complaint states. "Neither Mr. Buttaccio nor those with whom he hid had access to the wireless network.
"Similarly, other workers began hiding all over the In Amenas facility. They hid under beds, in ceilings - they went wherever they could since BP never provided any sort of plan."
The plant included two living quarters: one for expats and another for Algerian workers, according to The Guardian newspaper.
The terrorists, who numbered more than two dozen and were armed with Kalashnikov rifles, went door to door in the foreigners' housing, dragging workers out from under beds and from behind cabinets, The Guardian reported.
Some workers used the plant's wireless network to relay the terrorists' movements to each other and stay hidden, the Buttaccio family says.
"Mr. Buttaccio, however, had been deprived of such information," the complaint states. "By midmorning, he and those with him saw Algerian nationals and other people walking in olive drab fatigues moving freely around the living area.
"Since they had not heard gunfire in some time, and since they had no information to the contrary, they assumed it was safe to emerge from hiding. They came into the open. They were immediately captured."
The terrorists rounded up the hostages at gunpoint, bound their hands and feet and told them not to speak.
"At one point, the terrorists pulled Mr. Buttaccio aside, handed him a phone and made him call his wife, Rene Buttaccio. Mr. Buttaccio told Rene he loved her and their children, that he needed her to pass his love along to the children, and that he needed her to contact the United States Embassy and let them know of the terrorists' call. This was the last time Mr. and Mrs. Buttaccio would speak," the complaint states.
The next day the terrorists gathered up the foreign workers and "placed rings of explosives around their necks," before loading them into vehicles to take them to the gas plant, the Buttaccio family says in the complaint.
"Mr. Buttaccio perished from blast injuries on the way to the gas plant."
Buttaccio was among 40 workers who died in the terrorists' four-day siege of the compound.
In the tragedy's aftermath, news outlets reported that Buttaccio had died from a heart attack.
"When the family learned that Mr. Buttaccio's death was not caused by a heart attack but by terrorists from whom defendants failed to protect Mr. Buttaccio, the family asked defendants to correct the inaccurate information," the complaint states.
"Not only did defendants fail to correct the inaccuracy, they perpetuated it, as seen in the '60 Minutes' episode concerning the attack."
Buttaccio's wife and children seek punitive damages of more than $1 million for gross negligence, fraud, breach of contract, premises liability and infliction of emotional distress.
They are represented by Fred Hagans with Hagans Burdine Montgomery & Rustay, of Houston.