independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

BP rig man guilty of obstruction

Former BP engineer Kurt Mix has been found guilty of obstructing an inquiry into the Gulf rig disaster (AP)

A former BP drilling engineer has been convicted of obstructing a US government investigation of the company's massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Prosecutors said Kurt that Texan Mix, 52, was trying to destroy evidence when he deleted hundreds of text messages to and from a supervisor and a BP contractor. Mix was also accused of deleting two voicemails from the same two people.

He now faces up to 20 years in prison and a 250,000 dollar fine.

A jury in New Orleans spent more than nine hours before reaching a verdict. They acquitted Mix of a second charge

Mix was released on bail until sentencing scheduled for March 26. He hugged his friends and family members in the court before leaving hurriedly, refusing to comment.

Mix's lawyers said he did not hide anything. He preserved other records containing the same information contained in the deleted messages, they told jurors.

Mix, who did not give evidence at his two-week trial, was the first one of four current or former BP employees charged with crimes to be tried.

The April 2010, blowout of BP's Macondo well triggered an explosion that killed 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and spawned the nation's worst offshore oil spill. Millions of gallons of oil spewed into the Gulf while the company struggled for weeks to seal the well.

Mix was on a team of experts who worked on BP's unsuccessful attempt to stop the gusher using a technique called "top kill." He had access to internal data about how much oil was flowing from the blown-out well.

On May 26, 2010, the day that top kill began, Mix estimated in a text to a supervisor that more than 630,000 gallons of oil per day were spilling - three times BP's public estimate of 210,000 gallons daily and a rate far greater than what top kill could handle.

That text was in a string of messages that Mix exchanged with his supervisor, Jonathan Sprague, before deleting it in October 2010. Investigators could not recover 17 of the messages in the string.

In August 2011, Mix also deleted a string of text messages that he exchanged with BP contractor Wilson Arabie. Several weeks earlier, federal authorities issued a subpoena to BP for copies of Mix's correspondence.

-AP

Press Association

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