Deepwater Horizon survivors allege they were kept in seclusion after rig explosion, coerced into signing legal waivers

Monday, May 24, 2010
By Paul Martin

NewsYahoo.com

According to two surviving crew members of the Deepwater Horizon, oil workers from the rig were held in seclusion on the open water for up to two days after the April 20 explosion, while attorneys attempted to convince them to sign legal documents stating that they were unharmed by the incident. The men claim that they were forbidden from having any contact with concerned loved ones during that time, and were told they would not be able to go home until they signed the documents they were presented with.

Stephen Davis, a seven-year veteran of drilling-rig work from San Antonio, told The Guardian’s Suzanne Goldenberg today that he was held on a boat for 36 to 40 hours after diving into the Gulf from the burning rig and swimming to safety. Once on a crew boat, Davis said, he and the others were denied access to satellite phones or radio to get in touch with their families, many of whom were frantic to find out whether or not they were OK.

Davis’ attorney told Goldenberg that while on the boat, his client and the others were told to sign the statements presented to them by attorneys for Transocean — the firm that owned the Deepwater Horizon — or they wouldn’t be allowed to go home. After being awake for 50 harrowing hours, Davis caved and signed the papers. He said most of the others did as well.

Davis’ story seems to be backed up by a similar account given to NPR by another Deepwater Horizon crewmember earlier in the month. Christopher Choy, a roustabout on the rig, said that the lawyers gathered the survivors in the galley of a boat and said, “‘You need to sign these. Nobody’s getting off here until we get one from everybody.’ … At the bottom, it said something about, like, you know, this can be used as evidence in court and all that. I told them, ‘I’m not signing it.’ ”

Choy said that once he was finally allowed to get off the boat, he was shuttled to a hotel, where he met up with his wife. At the hotel, representatives from Transocean confronted him again and badgered him to sign the statement. Exhausted, traumatized and desperate to go home, Choy said that he finally relented and signed.

Choy’s lawyer, Steve Gordon, is incensed over what transpired in the hours after the explosion. He, along with other attorneys for Deepwater Horizon workers, is trying to get the documents voided by the courts.

“It’s absurd. It’s unacceptable, and it’s irresponsible,” Gordon told NPR.

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