Blowout: The Deepwater Horizon Disaster

A Survivor Recalls His Harrowing Escape; Plus, A Former BP Insider Warns Of Another Potential Disaster

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Down near the seabed is the blowout preventer, or BOP. It's used to seal the well shut in order to test the pressure and integrity of the well, and, in case of a blowout, it's the crew's only hope. A key component is a rubber gasket at the top called an "annular," which can close tightly around the drill pipe.

Williams says, during a test, they closed the gasket. But while it was shut tight, a crewman on deck accidentally nudged a joystick, applying hundreds of thousands of pounds of force, and moving 15 feet of drill pipe through the closed blowout preventer. Later, a man monitoring drilling fluid rising to the top made a troubling find.

"He discovered chunks of rubber in the drilling fluid. He thought it was important enough to gather this double handful of chunks of rubber and bring them into the driller shack. I recall asking the supervisor if this was out of the ordinary. And he says, 'Oh, it's no big deal.' And I thought, 'How can it be not a big deal? There's chunks of our seal is now missing,'" Williams told Pelley.

And, Williams says, he knew about another problem with the blowout preventer.

The BOP is operated from the surface by wires connected to two control pods; one is a back-up. Williams says one pod lost some of its function weeks before.

Transocean tells us the BOP was tested by remote control after these incidents and passed. But nearly a mile below, there was no way to know how much damage there was or whether the pod was unreliable.

In the hours before the disaster, Deepwater Horizon's work was nearly done. All that was left was to seal the well closed. The oil would be pumped out by another rig later. Williams says, that during a safety meeting, the manager for the rig owner, Transocean, was explaining how they were going to close the well when the manager from BP interrupted.

"I had the BP company man sitting directly beside me. And he literally perked up and said 'Well my process is different. And I think we're gonna do it this way.' And they kind of lined out how he thought it should go that day. So there was short of a chest-bumping kind of deal. The communication seemed to break down as to who was ultimately in charge," Williams said.

On the day of the accident, several BP managers were on the Deepwater Horizon for a ceremony to congratulate the crew for seven years without an injury. While they where there, a surge of explosive gas came flying up the well from three miles below. The rig's diesel engines which power its electric generators sucked in the gas and began to run wild.

"I'm hearing hissing. Engines are over-revving. And then all of a sudden, all the lights in my shop just started getting brighter and brighter and brighter. And I knew then something bad was getting ready to happen," Williams told Pelley.

It was almost ten at night. And directly under the Deepwater Horizon there were four men in a fishing boat, Albert Andry, Dustin King, Ryan Chaisson and Westley Bourg.

"When I heard the gas comin' out, I knew exactly what it was almost immediately," Bourg recalled.

"When the gas cloud was descending on you, what was that like?" Pelley asked.

"It was scary. And when I looked at it, it burned my eyes. And I knew we had to get out of there," Andry recalled.

Andry said he knew the gas was methane.

On the rig, Mike Williams was reaching for a door to investigate the engine noise.

"These are three inch thick, steel, fire-rated doors with six stainless steel hinges supporting 'em on the frame. As I reach for the handle, I heard this awful hissing noise, this whoosh. And at the height of the hiss, a huge explosion. The explosion literally rips the door from the hinges, hits, impacts me and takes me to the other side of the shop. And I'm up against a wall, when I finally come around, with a door on top of me. And I remember thinking to myself, 'You know, this, this is it. I'm gonna die right here,'" Williams remembered.

Meanwhile, the men on the fishing boat had a camera, capturing the flames on the water.

"I began to crawl across the floor. As I got to the next door, it exploded. And took me, the door, and slid me about 35 feet backwards again. And planted me up against another wall. At that point, I actually got angry. I was mad at the doors. I was mad that these fire doors that are supposed to protect me are hurting me. And at that point, I made a decision. 'I'm going to get outside. I may die out there, but I'm gonna get outside.' So I crawl across the grid work of the floor and make my way to that opening, where I see the light. I made it out the door and I thought to myself, 'I've accomplished what I set out to accomplish. I made it outside. At least now I can breathe. I may die out here, but I can breathe,'" Williams said.

Williams couldn't see; something was pouring into his eyes and that's when he noticed a gash in his forehead.

"I didn't know if it was blood. I didn't know if it was brains. I didn't know if it was flesh. I didn't know what it was. I just knew there was, I was, I was in trouble. At that point I grabbed a lifejacket, I was on the aft lifeboat deck there were two functioning lifeboats at my disposal right there. But I knew I couldn't board them. I had responsibilities," he remembered.