The Explosion At Texas City

2005 Refinery Explosion In Texas Killed 15, Injured 170

There is evidence that Texas City's own plant manager, Don Parus, was dismayed by unsafe conditions at the refinery and even tried to get the attention of his bosses in London. He showed them a report revealing that most workers at the refinery felt the plant was unsafe: one worker wrote "the equipment is in dangerous condition and this is not taken seriously." Another wrote "this place is set up for a catastrophic failure."

"What do you do you when you realize that everybody at the plant says this place is about to blow up?" Coon asks.

He says the company didn't do much. "Two months later the plant blew up," Coon says.

Before the explosion, plant manager Don Parus did persuade BP London to increase spending at Texas City, but he has now acknowledged in a deposition that it was too little, too late.

60 Minutes has learned BP did have time to fix what was wrong at the refinery. Two and a half years before the explosion, the company's own safety experts sent a report to London that actually predicted what would happen. It warned that the history of petroleum leaks at Texas City created "…the potential for a major site incident…."

And yet, BP's top refinery executive John Manzoni said under oath that he only learned of serious safety concerns at the refinery on the day of the explosion.

"The 23rd of March, 2005," he said during the deposition.

"Before that you had no idea there was a risk of catastrophic injury?" he was asked.

"No. I think had I been aware that we could have had a catastrophic failure, we would have taken action earlier, different action," Manzoni replied.
"Are you telling me there were not members of management who were quite aware there was a great risk of harm to people at Texas City before this explosion occurred?" he was asked.

"I believe that there were, I believe that nobody knew the level of risk at Texas City, because if they had known, I have absolutely no doubt we would have taken different and substantively different actions," Manzoni answered.

Last week, the company sent 60 Minutes a letter which said: "BP accepts responsibility for the explosion and fire at the Texas City refinery. We are deeply sorry for what occurred and for the suffering caused by our mistakes."

The company has set aside $1.6 billion to settle lawsuits with victims and survivors. If every plaintiff settles and the case never goes to trial, many damaging internal BP documents will remain under court seal. Eva Rowe, who lost both of her parents, says she won't go along with that. Hers is the lawsuit against BP that goes to court next week.

"To BP my parents were just another number. To them, they're replaceable," Rowe says. "To me they weren't just a number. They're somebody."

"A lot of people who suffered terrible losses that day have already settled with BP. Has BP offered to settle with you?" Bradley asks.

"Yes," she says.

"And they've offered you, I assume, a substantial amount of money?" Bradley asks.

"I want everyone to know what they did, you know. If we settle and all, everything we know has to remain confidential. I don't want that to happen," she says.

"So you're willing to go to trial?" Bradley says.

"I'm ready," Rowe says. "I'm ready to go to trial."

Produced By Joel Bach and David Gelber
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