NEW ORLEANS (CN) – Gunmen kidnapped a worker from a Transocean oil rig off the coast of Nigeria and tortured him for days while holding him hostage, the man claims in Federal Court.
Robert Croke seeks punitive damages from PPI Technology Services, GlobalSantaFe Offshore Services, Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling and Afren PLC.
Croke claims he was working for PPI Technology Services, an engineering firm, aboard the Transocean rig High Island VII on Nov. 8, 2008 when his ordeal began.
At the time, GlobalSantaFe and Transocean had “various employees aboard the rig whose job duties included ensuring for the safety of the oil rig,” according to the complaint. The oil rig had just been moved to site about 12 miles off the Nigerian coast.
“At approximately 12:30 a.m. on said date, the High Island VII was boarded by Nigerian gunmen in an effort to take hostages from the rig,” the complaint states. “Upon information and belief, the Nigerian gunmen were able to gain access to the High Island VII by using a fixed platform over which the High Island VII had positioned itself. Upon information and belief, there were no security measures taken to protect the platform from being boarded by the Nigerian gunmen. Moreover, the High Island VII had lowered a stairway down to the platform, thus allowing the Nigerian gunmen access to the High Island VII rig once they were able to board the platform.
“Once the rig was boarded by the Nigerian gunmen, plaintiff was taken hostage and slapped and beaten by the Nigerian gunmen. Because plaintiff had negligently been made to stay in outside accommodations separate from the main housing units of the rig, this allowed the gunmen to immediately capture and torture plaintiff. Plaintiff was eventually brought by the Nigerian gunmen to the galley of the rig, at which time he was thrown inside the galley with the other rig employees. The Nigerian gunmen began firing AK-47 rifles in the air and on the ground in order to intimidate and frighten plaintiff and the other rig employees. This caused pieces of the ceiling to fall on plaintiff and cause injury to his foot when he was shot in the foot.”
Croke says the gunmen left the galley after 30 to 45 minutes, taking him with them. “Mr. Croke was taken off of the rig by the Nigerian gunmen and held hostage for ten (10) days on land in Nigeria at a desolate, horrific camp maintained by the Nigerian gunmen,” the complaint states.
“Over the next ten days plaintiff herein Robert Croke was subjected to torture and intimidation and a daily basis. Due to the location of the camp he could hear gunfire and explosions in the near distance. Mr. Croke continually feared for his life during this time. His foot wound continued to worsen and he was not provided with adequate medical treatment during this time.
“Eventually, Mr. Croke was rescued from the camp but only through gunfire, bombings and helicopter raids. He was eventually brought to London, at which time he underwent two surgeries due to his foot injury.”
Croke claims he lost wages and suffers from mental and emotional damages as well as the wound on his foot, which has yet to heal.
He claims the defendants “knew or should have known of the possibility of a Nigerian gunmen attack on the rig, thus placing plaintiff in severe danger of his life. More specifically, it was known and/or should have been known by defendants that as early as 2006 similar attacks have been made on oil rigs off of the Nigerian coast.”
Similar attacks include the May 1, 2007, kidnapping of an American and five other people from an offshore oil facility operated by Chevron; a May 5, 2007, kidnapping of a British oil worker from the Transocean-owned and -operated Trident 8 rig off the coast of Nigeria; the May 9, 2007, kidnapping of four U.S. oil workers from a barge off the coast of Nigeria; the May 25, 2007, kidnapping of three Americans and six other people from a ship in the Niger Delta; the June 1, 2007, kidnapping of four Slumberger employees; and dozens of other acts of violence, kidnapping and attacks upon oil service workers working off the coast of Nigeria, according to the complaint.
Croke seeks punitive damages for failure to provide a safe place of work, failure to take proper steps to secure the platform before positioning the High Island VII over the platform and failure to have a proper plan in place given the prior knowledge of attacks off the coast of Nigeria.
He says his ordeal rendered him unfit for duty and he remains unfit and incapable of returning to duty as a seaman.
He is represented by Timothy Young.