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Technician: Deepwater Horizon warning system disabled

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 23, 2010; 10:56 AM

The chief engineer on the Deepwater Horizon tells a government panel that warning systems on the drilling rig were inhibited because the crew did not want to be disturbed in the middle of the night.

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 23, 2010; 10:56 AM

KENNER, LA. — Long before an eruption of gas turned the Deepwater Horizon oil rig into a fireball, an alarm system designed to alert the crew and prevent combustible gases from reaching potential sources of ignition had been deliberately disabled, the former chief electronics technician on the rig testified Friday.

Michael Williams said he understood that the rig had been operating with the system in “inhibited” mode for a year to prevent false alarms from disturbing the crew.

Williams said the explanation he got was that the leadership of the rig did not want crew members needlessly awakened in the middle of the night.

The ex-Marine, who survived the April 20 conflagration by jumping from the burning rig, was addressing a federal panel probing the disaster.

If the safety system was disabled, it would not have been a unique event. Records of federal enforcement actions reviewed by The Washington Post show that, in case after case, rig operators paid fines for allegedly bypassing safety systems that could impede routine operations.

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