Worker: Gulf Rig's Alarm System Was Partly Disabled

An electronics technician aboard the ill-fated oil rig Deepwater Horizon told an investigative panel Friday that an alarm system was partially shut down on the day the rig exploded.

Mike Williams, who worked for rig owner Transocean Ltd., said a three-way alarm system to warn of fire, explosive gas and toxic gas was turned on to monitor conditions, but its sound and light alarms had been disabled.

He testified he knew the alarm settings from a computer monitor into which it fed. He said in 2009 he asked about the settings and was told the company "didn't want people looking up at 3 a.m. to a false alarm."

Williams said that if the system had been fully operational, an alarm likely would have sounded before the explosion, which happened late on the night of April 20.

Williams testified he had no warning of the blast before it occurred.

The rig's drilling room also had chronic computer problems, including one computer that carried the nickname "the blue screen of death," he said

Williams said the computer had a 1990s operating system and was subject to periodic failure.

Williams also said the Deepwater Horizon was to be sent to a shipyard for extensive repairs. He said he was told the rig would be there for an extended time because "it was in very bad shape."

The Deepwater Horizon was working in the Gulf of Mexico about 40 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River when it exploded and burned.

The rig sank two days later. Since then, millions of gallons of oil have poured into the Gulf.

The Coast Guard and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement will conclude a week of hearings on Friday, then resume Aug. 23-27 in Houston.

This program aired on July 23, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.


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