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Read This Dramatic Account Of BP Well Blowout

Deepwater Horizon explosion
Image courtesy SkyTruth

In one of the most detailed accounts of the explosion on board the Deepwater Horizon oil rig earlier this year, New York Times reporters David Barstow, David Rohde, Stephanie Saul and Ian Urbinatell the storyof a disaster that killed 11 men and led to one of the largest environmental catastrophes in United States history.

In one harrowing account that reads like an action novel, 28-year-old floorhand Caleb Holloway and his coworker Dan Barron were racing to the rig's drilling floor in an effort to contain the blowout.

When they reached the drilling floor, Mr. Holloway and Mr. Barron paused. They would have to pass through a watertight door to get to the drilling floor. Yet they could not be sure what they would find on the other side. Mr. Holloway cracked open the door. All he could see was mud and water bouncing off the derrick in every direction with incredible force. He and Mr. Barron went through anyway. Twenty feet from the blowout’s full fury, it sounded like a jet engine, a shrill whining howl. Mr. Holloway was instantly soaked, his protective glasses coated in mud. Objects were crashing around him, some “loud enough to make you jump.”

Later, as hydrocarbons are raining down, Holloway and technicians Mike Williams and Doug Brown realized their lives were in immediate danger.

They were turning down the stairs when they were buffeted by an explosion. Mr. Holloway felt an intense, stabbing pain in his ears. He steadied himself on the stair rail and pressed his hard hat to his head, as if it alone might shelter him. The first big explosion centered on Engine 3, investigators believe. A second explosion centered on Engine 6. Caught in the crossfire were Mr. Brown’s engine control room and Mr. Williams’s electronics shop. Mr. Williams was contemplating the remains of his computer when everything exploded. A door smashed his forehead. Blood streaming down his face, he clenched a penlight in his mouth and began crawling. He got to another door, only to be blown 30 feet back by the second blast.

Read the entire story here. It also includes a slideshow and video of the fire on board the rig.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.