Gulf of Mexico rig worker makes safety charge: report

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A worker on the rig which exploded in the Gulf of Mexico claimed Monday he found a fault in a key piece of safety equipment weeks before the disaster, a British television report said.

Tyrone Benton told the BBC the fault on the Deepwater Horizon rig was not fixed and instead the device, known as a blowout preventer, was shut down and a second one used.

He told the BBC that repairing it would have meant stopping drilling work at a time when it was costing 500,000 dollars a day to operate the rig, the source of the massive oil spill.

Energy giant BP has said that rig owners Transocean were responsible for the piece of equipment, and Transocean says the device was tested successfully before the incident, the BBC reported.

"We saw a leak on the pod, so by seeing the leak we informed the company men," Benton told investigative TV programme Panorama, which is being screened later Monday.

"They have a control room where they could turn off that pod and turn on the other one, so that they don't have to stop production... they just shut it down and worked off another pod."

The BBC also quoted petroleum expert Professor Tad Patzek of the University of Texas as saying: "That is unacceptable. If you see any evidence of the blowout preventer not functioning properly, you should fix it by whatever means possible."

© 2010 AFP

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