One has suffered nightmares. Another says she’s lost a piece of her heart. A third laments that companies put money ahead of safety. A fourth wants stiffer penalties for the oil titan at the center of it all.
The sentiments are among victim impact statements streaming in from the widows, parents, brothers and children of some of the 11 workers killed in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico rig explosion off Louisiana. Coastal residents affected by the resulting oil spill also are weighing in.
Wednesday is the deadline for filing impact statements with the federal court considering whether to approve a plea bargain. BP, which owned the undersea well that blew out, causing an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig it was leasing, will have until Jan. 23 to respond to the statements if it chooses.
U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance will balance the statements of devastation and grief against declarations from BP and federal prosecutors that the plea deal is fair, and a sealed recommendation from probation officials.
She will then decide whether to approve a plea deal to resolve criminal charges against the British oil giant at a Jan. 29 hearing. If the judge rejects or modifies the deal, which includes a $4 billion penalty, BP could withdraw its plea and go to trial on 14 charges, including manslaughter.
The recent submissions have given Vance, a veteran judge nominated to the federal bench by former President Bill Clinton in 1994, a lot to think about.
“I have learned that people will sacrifice the lives of others to get where they wanna be no matter what,” wrote Jessica Manuel, a daughter of mud engineer Blair Manuel, one of the rig workers killed. “Money rules the world for some people.”
She said she has experienced anger, changes in appetite, loss of sleep and depression since the Deepwater Horizon explosion.
Sense of loss
“It’s just a tremendous sense of loss and sadness even three years later,” the Lafayette, La., woman wrote. “My dad was killed on that rig. And since we had no body to bury, I feel no closure at all.”
None of the victims’ remains were recovered.
Her sister, Kelli Taquino, wrote that she has needed therapy to deal with her grief after learning her father was dead. “From that point on, my life changed forever, a change not for the good,” wrote Taquino, also of Lafayette.
Christopher Jones of Baton Rouge, La., wrote that he and his family are still waiting for a personal apology from BP about the death of his brother, mud engineer Gordon Jones.
“Despite many opportunities over the past three years, BP has never taken a moment to extend that simple gesture,” he said. “Instead, BP has spent its considerable resources on millions of dollars worth of media buys, commercials and PR campaigns to ensure everyone that everything is back to normal. Well, it is not back to normal, and it never will be for the Jones family, the families of the others killed on this rig, others who were injured and the millions of other residents of the Gulf Coast impacted by this disaster.”
BP has issued several public apologies for the deaths of the rig workers and the oil that spilled. Wednesday is the deadline for it and the Justice Department to file a joint memo explaining why they believe the plea agreement is appropriate.
Christopher Jones wrote that he hopes the judge will modify the plea agreement to include “stiffer penalties that prohibit or limit BP’s ability to operate in American waters.” The current deal calls for five years of probation, but does not prohibit BP from operating in the Gulf, which remains a key area of operation for the company.
‘BP will survive’
“BP will survive this agreement,” Jones wrote. “It will move on from this and continue to make billions of dollars in profit in United States waters for its stockholders. Whereas BP will live on, Gordon will not.”
The widow and father of toolpusher Jason Anderson also have filed victim impact statements.
As for the victims of the spill, Henri Andre Fourroux III, a New Orleans resident who said he suffered asthma as a result of fumes from the oil that was released and the dispersants that were used to break up the oil, said the judge should reject the plea deal.
“If this means a trial, then a trial is necessary for justice,” he wrote.