Family Says BP Knew of Terror Threat
HOUSTON (CN) - BP knew its Algerian gas plant was a prime terrorist target, but it did not hire armed guards and told workers to "hide under your bed" if the plant was attacked, and terrorists killed a Texan there, the man's family claims in court.
Survivors of Victor Lovelady sued BP America and affiliates and BP executive Mark Cobb on July 17 in Harris County Court.
BP recruited Lovelady in Harris County to work for $900 a day as an inspector at its natural gas plant outside In Amenas, Algeria, a town in eastern Algeria close to the Libyan border, his wife and children say in the lawsuit.
Lovelady signed up to work as a contractor with Roevin Management Services, the complaint states.
The plant had two living quarters: one for expats and another for Algerian workers, according to The Guardian newspaper.
Al-Qaeda linked terrorists raided the plant in the early morning of Jan. 16, 2013 when Lovelady was in the cantina eating breakfast.
"He and the others in the cantina heard gunfire, then a Norwegian who had been shot in the stomach came into the cantina. The men attempted to do what they could to help the wounded Norwegian and then they attempted to hide," the complaint states.
"They first tried to hide behind a refrigerator, but quickly realized that they could not all find refuge there, so they next attempted to climb up and into the crawl space in the ceiling. Three men were able to get into the crawl space, and did so with Mr. Lovelady's assistance. Unfortunately, when it was Victor's time to be helped up, the terrorists entered and captured Victor Lovelady and others that remained unhidden in the cantina."
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.
"At one point, the terrorists allowed Mr. Lovelady to make a phone call," the complaint states. "Mr. Lovelady called his brother, Mike Lovelady, because Victor Lovelady knew the emotional toll it would have upon his wife, Maureen Lovelady, would simply be too great for her to handle.
"He told his brother that he was being held hostage and that he and the others had been told to tell their family to contact the United States Embassy, the press and whoever else they could, to let them know of their predicament. His last words to his brother were, 'Take care of my family, Mike.' Then the phone was taken away and his brother, Mike, overheard Victor Lovelady tell his captor 'thank you' for allowing him to call home."
The terrorists rounded up the hostages at gunpoint, bound their hands and feet and told them not to speak.
The BP executive in charge of the plant, Mark Cobb, was more fortunate, Lovelady's family says.
Cobb "called the head of the gendarmes, arranged for a soldier to cut a hole in a nearby fence" and escaped, according to the complaint.
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 Lovelady family says.
"Mr. Lovelady perished from blast injuries on the way to the gas plant," the complaint states.
The 57-year-old was among 40 workers who died in the terrorists' four-day siege of the compound .
His family says BP knew the plant was at risk for a terrorist attack because a weapons cache was found near In Amenas in 2012, and as fighting broke out in the area BP was "specifically advised" that foreign workers at the plant could be targeted.
"However, even while it had been made aware of the heightened risk of a terrorist strike in the face of evidence of the escalating regional violence, BP sent Mr. Lovelady into a plant and accommodations without bullet-resistant walls, without armed guards, and without a safe room or panic room," the complaint states.
Lovelady's wife and two children seek punitive damages for negligence, breach of contract, premises liability and fraud.
They are represented by D'Juana Parks with the Provost Umphrey Law Firm, of Beaumont.