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Gulf oil spill: Save accident evidence, congressional investigators say

June 13, 2010 |  3:42 pm

Two congressmen leading investigations into the April 20 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion asked Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen to "secure the chain of custody of the blowout preventer from the moment it is lifted from the well until it reaches port and can be turned over to federal investigators as evidence."

The congressmen, Reps. Nick J. Rahall II (D-W.Va.) and James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.), said in a letter Sunday: "Questions have arisen related to the inspection, operation, and maintenance of the failed blowout preventer system."

Rahall heads the House Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over offshore oil. Oberstar chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which has held investigatory hearings on the disaster.

The two cited the importance of a "proper, thorough and untainted forensic analysis" of the device to any "subsequent legal action."

The blowout preventer, designed to cut off an uncontrolled well, did not engage properly in the early moments of the April 20 rig disaster, allowing natural gas to rise to the rig, where it ignited, killing 11 people and starting the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. has opened a criminal investigation into the disaster.

-- Richard Simon, from Washington