July 9 hearing set in BP employees’ criminal case

NEW ORLEANS — A federal appeals court has set a July 9 hearing in the manslaughter case against two BP employees charged in connection with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 offshore rig workers.

BP well site leaders Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine were indicted on 22 manslaughter counts in the case. U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval Jr. threw out 11 counts of “seaman’s manslaughter.” Duval said the seaman’s manslaughter law didn’t apply to the well leaders.

Prosecutors have asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate the charges.

Meanwhile, 11 involuntary manslaughter counts remain against the two.

Kaluza and Vidrine have pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors claim the two botched a safety test and disregarded high pressure readings that were signs of trouble before the explosion.

The two had been set for trial in June. However, Duval postponed activity in the case pending the outcome of the appeal on the 11 seaman’s manslaughter charges.

In addition to the death of the workers, the April 20, 2010, explosion led to millions of gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana.