The wreckage — including the failed blowout preventer and the blackened, twisted remnants of the drilling platform that exploded, burned and sank in mile-deep water in the Gulf in April — may be Exhibit A in the effort to establish who is responsible for the biggest peacetime oil spill in history.
Hundreds of investigators can’t wait to get their hands on evidence. The FBI is conducting a criminal investigation, the Coast Guard is seeking the cause of the blast, and lawyers are pursuing millions of dollars in damages for the families of the 11 workers killed, the dozens injured and the thousands whose livelihoods have been damaged.
“The items at the bottom of the sea are a big deal for everybody,” said Stephen Herman, a New Orleans lawyer for injured rig workers and others.
BP will almost certainly want a look at the items, particularly if it tries to shift responsibility for the disaster onto other companies, such as Transocean, which owned the oil platform, Haliburton, which supplied the crew that was cementing the well, and Cameron International, maker of the blowout preventer.
BP and Transocean — which could face heavy penalties if found to be at fault — have said they will raise some of the wreckage if it can be done without doing more damage to the oil well. That would give the two companies responsibility for gathering up the very evidence that could be used against them.
But the federal government has said it simply doesn’t have the know-how and the deep-sea equipment available to the drilling industry. And it said the operation will be closely supervised by the Coast Guard.