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Thursday, May 30, 2024 | Back issues
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No ‘Seaman’s Manslaughter’ in BP Spill

NEW ORLEANS (CN) - The 5th Circuit on Wednesday upheld the dismissal of "seaman's manslaughter" charges against two BP well leaders for their role in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil well blowout that killed 11 workers and dumped millions of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit ruled that the federal law does not support the 11 counts of seaman's manslaughter charges filed against Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine in a 2012 23-count felony indictment.

Wednesday's decision affirmed a federal judge's 2013 ruling to drop the 11 charges against the top BP employees at the helm of the rig the day of the deadly explosion.

"The statue was enacted to address the dangers of travel by steamboat, and it is persons responsible for that travel that should be held liable under the statue," Judge Patrick Higginbotham wrote for the 3-judge panel. "Defendants were not responsible for the travel of the Deepwater Horizon."

The decision from the New Orleans-based appellate court does not close the door for Kaluza and Vidrine to face trial on 11 counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of violating the Clean Water Act, which have not been dismissed.

The indictment alleged the veteran employees, who each have at least 30 years experience in the oil and gas industry, of "negligently or grossly negligently" failing to alert engineers that the well was not secure after they botched tests at the site just before it blew.

The April 20, 2010 disaster resulted in the deaths and injuries of workers and capsized the rig, severing the riser, and causing oil to spill from the pipe for three months until it was capped in what is considered the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

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