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Gulf oil spill: Deepwater Horizon was left in less experienced hands, BP official says

July 20, 2010 | 11:30 am
One of BP’s top officials on the Deepwater Horizon who had spent seven years atop the mobile floating oil rig, left the vessel four days before it exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, relinquishing authority to a temporary leader who wasn’t as familiar with it, the oil company official testified Tuesday.

Ronald Sepulvado, a well site leader for 33 years and a BP employee for 10, had been among BP’s top two officials aboard the rig before the April 20 explosion. He was replaced by Robert Kaluza, a BP “company man” who on Tuesday refused to testify, citing his constitutional right to not incriminate himself, before a U.S. Coast Guard-Interior Department panel in suburban New Orleans that's investigating the cause of the explosion.

Kaluza and another BP “company man,” Donald Vidrine, were the top BP officials aboard the Deepwater Horizon when it exploded, touching off the worst offshore oil spill in recent U.S. history.

Neither man has testified before these federal investigators, with Vidrine citing a medical reason in May and on Tuesday. Sepulvado said both men would be in a key position to know what happened the day the rig exploded.

There were two BP officials aboard the rig because each man was on duty for a 12-hour watch, Sepulvado said. Sepulvado left the rig on April 16 to go to Louisiana to attend classes on the blowout preventer, a key piece of equipment designed to shut off an out-of-control well from gushing into the seawater.

Sepulvado said on the day that the rig exploded that other BP officials had arrived on the rig to commend the crew for having a good safety record, reporting no accidents for the last seven years.

-- Rong-Gong Lin II in Kenner, La.
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