A federal court has ruled manslaughter charges should be dropped against two former BP managers for their roles in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 workers.
A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district judge’s decision to drop the charges against Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine, the two highest-ranking supervisors on board the rig when it exploded April 20, 2010, causing the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
The 5th Circuit judges dismissed the 11 counts of seaman’s manslaughter because the men’s responsibilities didn’t meet the requirement of “marine operations, maintenance and navigation” of a ship. The charge carries a maximum of 10 years in prison.
A presidential commission identified 11 decisions at Deepwater Horizon that increased risks. Seven of those decisions were made by BP managers.
The indictments of Kaluza and Vidrine made damning accusations against the two men: “Despite ongoing, glaring indications on the drill pipe that the well was not secure, defendants Kaluza and Vidrine again failed to phone engineers onshore to alert them to the problem, and failed to investigate further.”
Bringing criminal charges against the two BP managers is part of a growing trend. The practice was more common in the 1980s and 1990s. The number of charges dropped last decade. Once again, prosecutors are using it more often.
- A federal grand jury handed up a four-count indictment against former Massey Energy CEO Donald Blankenship in connection with the Upper Big Branch mine disaster that claimed the lives of 29 miners. Blankenship faces a maximum of 31 years in prison – a potential life sentence for the 64-year-old man.
- Five managers were sentenced to prison terms for illegal asbestos removal, including not providing personal protective equipment to workers handling cancer-causing materials.
- A grand jury in California has indicted the owner and project manager of a contracting company on involuntary manslaughter charges in the death of a worker in a trench collapse. The maximum sentence for the crime is three years in prison.
Do you think pressing criminal charges against managers will make others responsible for employee safety take notice and step up their game? Let us know in the comments.