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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Government Raises Oil Flow Rate Estimate; Rig Explosion Survivors Speak Out
Aired June 11, 2010 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again from Louisiana.
We have been telling you for weeks the difficulties that scientists have had in measuring how much oil is flowing into the Gulf. In the beginning, you know BP said it was 1,000 barrels. Then the government said 5,000, then 12,000 to 19,000, then 12,000 to 25,000, and now 20,000 to 40,000. But the truth is, it could be much higher.
Today, for the first time, the government's man in charge, Admiral Thad Allen, said they are going to lower sensors down underwater to the well to directly measure the leak. Now, this is what researchers, private, independent researchers, have been demanding and BP has been blocking for weeks, measuring the leak by, well, you know, actually measuring the leak.
All along, BP has said it doesn't need to be measured because they were planning for a worst-case scenario. Well, today, further evidence that they didn't plan well enough. They are siphoning off some 15,000 barrels of oil, they say, from the well every day, which is almost as much as the tanker on scene can handle.
Now, had they had a better estimate of the leak to begin with, of course, perhaps they would have had more resources on the scene right now.
Let's bring in Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser.
Billy, thanks very much for being with us. I know it's been a couple busy days for you.
Wolf Blitzer asked Admiral Allen today specifically about your concerns that you don't know who is in charge. That's what you said in testimony in Washington tomorrow. He says he's assigned a Coast Guard officer to each of the parish presidents, that if you have any concerns, he would be willing to meet with you. What do you make of that? Do you really not know who is in charge?
BILLY NUNGESSER, PRESIDENT, PLAQUEMINES PARISH, LOUISIANA: Well, we have got a great guy in Sam (ph) that is in our headquarters, but everything has got to go up the chain of command, and then we have another guy in Venice that is very passionate, but I don't think either one of them can make a decision.
And that's the problem. Tomorrow morning, I'm going to go to Houma with another plan, just like Governor Jindal got approval finally for the suction machinery. Well, we have some got other plans we will present tomorrow in Houma.
But, you know, we fight just as hard to get things that will help us get the oil out. I don't want to fight with anybody. I want to be on the same team, but it hasn't worked that way, except when the president came down. Each time the president came, things happened. Other than that, yes, they will check into them, they will get back with us, but nothing happens.
And we went out for three hours and saw no skimmers, a lot of oil, no skimmers. Totally unacceptable.
COOPER: Now, what is the situation with those vacuum devices? Because I went out with the governor I think when you were in Washington. He basically had like five of these things working. You basically took an 18-wheeler vacuum truck, put it on a barge, tied it down, and just started vacuuming up to see if it would work, and it seemed to work.
Is BP going to pay for that? They wanted to do it on -- you guys wanted to do it on a big scale, get like 100 of them. Is it going to -- is that going to happen?
NUNGESSER: Right. I think they approved fire or six of them, or as many as 13, I heard today. We will find out tomorrow exactly.
But you're right. There ought to be -- everything we can deploy, we ought to deploy. The local paper had them cleaning up on an island. It looks like Scott Towels they laid down, and a bunch of workers looking at the towels in the pools of oil, just like wiping the blades of grass. Where is the management on those teams? Why isn't that oil being raked up in a pile, and let's get after it and get on?
I mean, that is just a Band-Aid on -- when we need major surgery.
COOPER: The admiral also said, you know, that he's hoping to get these sensors down to the leaking pipe to actually get some pressure readings over the next couple of days to get a more accurate flow.
I mean, it's kind of stunning that, on day 52, this is just happening. You -- this is the kind of thing you would think would have happened long ago.
You know, Anderson, it's just like they said, you know, 20 and 30 acres of Plaquemines Parish has been infested with the oil. We GPSed it, went out with a helicopter and a boat. It's a little over 300 acres. So, they're off a few acres.
And we -- that's their estimate compared to the actual facts that we went out and measured. So, when you're off that much, that's not a mistake. That's misleading,. And we -- we find out all across the board here. I'm really growing frustrated. We're going to give the new BP guy until Monday. We took him out. He touched the oil. We will give him a week. We have got to see more action out on the water quickly. We're getting into hurricane season. We need this oil cleaned up, be out there waiting for the next oil to come in, not just always chasing the oil, and that's what we're doing now.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, day 52, it's easy for people, I think, who aren't here to start to think of this as, well, just same old, same old, and just routine. But no one should ever think about this as routine. Each day has sort of fresh disasters. Each day, the urgency should be building, not lessening, for folks who aren't here.
Billy, I appreciate your time tonight. We will talk to you more all next week, of course, when we're here live from the Gulf.
Now our exclusive interviews with the survivors of the Deepwater Horizons, where a series of deadly explosions led to this, the greatest environmental disaster in American history, in extraordinary detail tonight, gut-wrenching accounts. You're going to hear from a group of men aboard that doomed rig, five of them, from the first signs of trouble to the desperate efforts to save others and themselves. We're going to bring you that.
These survivors will also tell you about the safety questions they had and why they say they believe BP was cutting corners and taking risks.
Tonight's report is a partnership with 360 and CNN's Special Investigations Unit.
We begin with that moment that changed everything.
COOPER (voice-over): April 20, the Gulf of Mexico, 51 miles off the coast of Louisiana, a crew of 126. Some of the best oil industry engineers in the world were five weeks behind schedule drilling a stubborn well a mile deep.
A few minutes before 10:00 p.m., they heard a noise they had never heard before.
DOUG BROWN, BP EXPLOSION SURVIVOR: We began hearing the loud hissing and venting sound.
MATTHEW JACOBS, DEEPWATER HORIZON EXPLOSION SURVIVOR: And it just kept getting louder and louder. I said, "Something's not right."
DANIEL BARRON III, DEEPWATER HORIZON EXPLOSION SURVIVOR: He just looked at me and he goes, "Man, I smell gas."
I said, "What do we do?"
He goes, "Run." COOPER: Eleven men would die that night. The question I, what happened and why? In the weeks before that terrible moment, crew members we spoke to say everyone felt pressure to get the well drilled and the oil flowing. Some worried about cutting concerns.
COOPER (on camera): Do you believe that safety is their number- one concern?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All BP is worried about is the money.
COOPER (voice-over): The day of the explosion, at least two survivors say they witnessed an argument between the driller, Transocean, and a BP manager who wanted to press ahead.
(on camera): You're saying the guy from BP won the argument, basically? He basically, said, well, this is how we're going to do it?
BROWN: Yes. That's what I remember, yes. He basically said, well, this is how it's going to be.
BARRON: There was always, like, an ominous feeling when we were on that well, you know. There was like that chatter that, you know, we're messing with Mother Nature right now.
COOPER (voice-over): About 11 hours later, 9:56 p.m., the loud hissing erupted into a series of explosions that would engulf the massive rig.
BROWN: And it was actually so bright you couldn't even look at it any more.
It actually started sounding like a living thing, because it was hissing so loudly. It was almost sounding like the beginnings of a roar of a creature.
AMANDA COOPER-BARRON, WIFE OF BP OIL RIG SURVIVOR: He just goes, What rig does Dan work on again? And I said, Deepwater Horizon. Why?
And he goes, his rig has exploded.
CHRIS CHOY, BP EXPLOSION SURVIVOR: Everybody's screaming, the derrick's going to fall. The derrick's going to fall on us.
BARRON: One of the guys that was on the lifeboat, he actually -- he panicked so much that he got up out of the lifeboat and then jumped overboard.
JACOBS: It looked like you was looking at the face of death.
COOPER: Coming up next on 360, you will hear more from the survivors in their own words: how the fire started and how the fear quickly spread.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACOBS: In the hallway, I mean, there's people screaming and hollering. I mean, it's -- it's like the movie "Titanic" right before the ship sinks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Welcome back to "Deepwater Disaster: Survivor Stories," our exclusive report on the tragedy aboard the oil rig, a tragedy that turned into a catastrophe here in the Gulf.
In this hour, we're letting the men who survived the inferno tell you their stories about what happened that night off the coast of Louisiana. Their accounts are harrowing and heartbreaking. How did it begin? That's what we wanted to know.
Let's take you back to April 20, a routine night for the crew, until they heard something they will never forget.
BROWN: We began hearing the loud hissing and venting sound.
COOPER: And that was -- that was methane escaping?
COOPER: Had you ever heard anything like it before?
BROWN: Not like this, no. It was extremely loud.
And did you -- did all you guys hear it?
JACOBS: It kept going and going and going. And it just kept getting louder and louder. And I said, something is not right.
CHOY: I was asleep. It woke me up, the sound from it. I didn't know what it was. I just heard that -- that loud hissing sound.
COOPER: And what did you see?
BARRON: The other guy had a radio, and we ran back to the phone, and he picked up the phone. And he just looked at me and he goes, man, I smell gas.
And I said, what do we do? He goes, run, you know?
COOPER: He said, run?
BARRON: Yes, he said run. And, luckily, we were right by the door. And when we came down to the door, less than maybe 30 seconds later, the whole derrick was on fire.
COOPER: And, I mean, what kind of flames, how big a fire? BARRON: Oh, they were huge, I mean, just massive, I mean, something that you would never expect to see. I mean, you were in shock.
COOPER: But you actually saw the flames?
BARRON: Oh, yes, definitely. Yes. It was pretty crazy. And, I mean, the mud and seawater and gas was just coming down on us, like it was raining.
COOPER: It actually felt like rain? There was actually mud raining down on you?
BARRON: Oh, yes. Yes. I mean, it was...
COOPER: Where was the mud coming from?
BARRON: From the rotary table. It was coming back up through the well.
COOPER: So, mud was literally exploding up through the water?
COOPER: I mean, through the well?
BARRON: Through the well, yes, up through -- to the crown of the derrick.
JACOBS: And out in the hallway, I mean, there's people screaming, hollering. I mean, it's -- it's like the movie "Titanic" right before the ship sinks. Everybody's just hysterical.
And when I get there, I mean, I could feel the heat from the flames as soon as I come out onto the smoke deck. But when I got up on the lifeboat deck, I just stopped and I looked up.
And I was, like, this ain't -- I said, this can't be happening. I said, there is no way we could put that fire out.
COOPER: What did it look like?
JACOBS: It -- it looked like you was looking at the face of death. I mean, you could hear it, see it, smell it. I mean, it was like -- it was the worst thing I had ever seen.
COOPER: How high were the flames?
CHOY: They were -- they were way up the derrick. They were probably, I want to say 150 foot then. They were probably three- quarters of the way up the derrick. And I was, like, you know, there's no way we're going to put that out. And I said, we're leaving here. And I...
COOPER: That's when you knew...
COOPER: ... leave?
CHOY: I know we were -- even if we -- the firefighting equipment would have worked, we couldn't reach it. We couldn't reach the top of the flames or anything.
COOPER: And where were you for the first explosion?
BROWN: I was -- by this time, I had stood up from my computer, and I was standing in front of the engine room console. And the explosion took me from behind and threw me up against that console.
COOPER: So, you were actually knocked against that -- the console?
BROWN: Very -- yes, very violently.
COOPER: And -- and what was that explosion like?
BROWN: It was like being hit by a freight train from behind. And it hurt. It just totally lifted me up a few inches and carried me forward into the console. And the wind was knocked out of me. I was dazed. And this floor completely collapsed. And I fell down into this hole, about, I would say, a two-foot drop, and found myself laying on my back down there.
COOPER: And then what happened?
BROWN: I was really confused. And I started to get up. And I made it up to my hands and knees, and another -- the second explosion hit us.
And this one, I have no idea which direction it came from. To me, it was just completely all around me. And that threw me back down on the floor again. And now, at this point, I'm scared, scared to death. I figured, this is my time. I'm going to die.
COOPER: The explosions were that big?
BROWN: Yes, they were that big.
COOPER: And when the first explosion hit what, did you see? What did you feel?
BARRON: Oh, man, it was -- it was awful. And I turned around, and so did Caleb (ph). And we started looking up at the derrick. And the derrick was just on fire. And then all the lights went out. And the -- the mud is still coming down, and the -- and the seawater and everything is just -- it's just flooding us, like a -- like a thunderstorm. And then we're in the complete dark. You know, and it's dark outside. And the only light we had was the light from the -- the fire. And that's when the second explosion happened.
COOPER: And you don't -- you don't remember any of this at this point?
BRENT MANSFIELD, BP EXPLOSION SURVIVOR: No, sir.
MANSFIELD: And, in fact, Doug was probably the first person that I had gotten in contact with after I got to the hospital, when, you know, I didn't know where I was working at the time, you know, when I started -- really, after I saw my family, and...
COOPER: It's OK. It's hard for all of you. I mean, it's tough to talk about.
BROWN: It's very hard.
MANSFIELD: (INAUDIBLE) helped me out of there.
COOPER: So, you heard that Brent was -- was down?
BROWN: Yes, I heard he was down. The other motormen with us went back in to help the other motormen get Brent out.
And because the electrical technician was bleeding, he was injured, and he wasn't quite all there, he was panicking, I decided to stay with him, and we went to the bridge. I looked up at the fire on the rig floor, and it was getting larger, and that was scaring me.
It was starting to spread down on -- down on to the main deck, and it was actually so bright, you couldn't even look at it anymore. It actually started sounding like a living thing, because it was hissing so loudly. It was almost sounding like the beginnings of a roar of a creature.
COOPER: The fire actually sounded almost alive?
BROWN: Yes. And it just continued to grow. And, finally, the order was given for us to board the lifeboats.
COOPER: Coming up: the struggle to escape. For the crew, getting on the lifeboats didn't end the nightmare.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARRON: You know, people were screaming and yelling. And, you know, we just got on the lifeboat. And, I mean, it was even worse. I mean, that was probably the worst part of it, was being in the lifeboat.
BARRON: Because it was just -- it's like you're almost waiting to die.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: There were 126 people on the Deepwater Horizon when it exploded in the Gulf. Eleven perished. One hundred and fifteen others made it out alive.
Tonight, we're bringing you the stories of five of these survivors, in exclusive interviews you won't see anywhere else.
Before the break, they told us about the massive fire that engulfed the rig. The flames, they said, were everywhere, and time was running out. Some scrambled to lifeboats as the only way to escape. Listen.
COOPER: What was the scene like in the lifeboat when you got there?
BARRON: It was -- it was insane. I mean, people were just jumping in the lifeboats. There was other people -- because there's -- there's two lifeboats side by side. And you're assigned to each one.
COOPER: And each lifeboat fit about 75 people?
But people were just running and jumping in them. And, you know, it's dark. And, you know, people were screaming and yelling. And, you know, we just got on the lifeboat. And, I mean, it was even worse. I mean, that was probably the worst part of it, was being in the lifeboat.
BARRON: Because it was just -- it's like you're almost waiting to die. There's people screaming, you know, put it in the water. Let's go.
And it's filling up with smoke. And you can feel the heat from the fire.
In fact, one of the guys that was on the lifeboat, he actually -- he panicked so much that he got up out of the lifeboat and then jumped overboard, because it -- it just seemed like it took forever.
COOPER: When you're sitting on that boat, what did you think? I mean, what's going through your mind?
CHOY: I was fixing to get back off, because we are sitting there, and everybody's screaming, you know, the derrick's going to fall. The derrick's going to fall on us. And when -- they said they couldn't get the motor cranked, I had my -- my seat belt and everything on in there already.
I took it back off. I was like, well, I didn't -- I'm not going to burn up in a lifeboat, if they can't get the motor cranked. I said, I'm fixing to jump.
COOPER: You were going to jump off the rig?
CHOY: Yes, I was going to climb back out and jump off.
COOPER: Was the water on fire at all? Did anybody actually see the water?
CHOY: You could see it underneath the rig. The water was on fire.
COOPER: The water was on fire?
And what was it like, sitting there waiting for the others to come and waiting for it to get -- to get lowered?
JACOBS: I mean, we were just screaming to everybody, you know, get on a boat. Get on a boat.
And I remember another explosion. And when it exploded, the lifeboat free-fell for about three foot, and then just stopped all of a sudden. I was scared to death sitting there in that lifeboat. I said, I done made it out of my room, and out of the living quarters, and here I am on a lifeboat that's supposed to help get me off this rig, and I'm going to wind up dying on this lifeboat.
And, you know, the only thing going through my mind is, you know, family back home, you know, and I just -- I started praying. I didn't know what else to do.
COOPER: What did you pray for?
JACOBS: I prayed for my family to let God know that I love my wife and that I love my kids, and that he would help me and everybody else get off this boat safely, get off the rig safely.
CHOY: They finally got the motor started. And we got in. They put us down in the water.
COOPER: Did you look at the rig?
CHOY: Oh, yes, we were right there. I mean, we were probably not even a mile away from it. And we sat there for, like, seven hours watching the rig burn. You know, you look at it one way, if you -- you could sit there and watch it burn, and finally, I was, like, I -- you know, I can't watch that. And, so, I turned around and sat down to turn away from it. And I looked up, and there's the giant windows on the wheelhouse of the boat. And you see the reflection in it there.
So, it was like there was no getting away from it, but to try to close your eyes. And every time you would close your eyes, you would see all the -- everything just replaying. Yes, that's one image I will never forget the rest of my life is -- is from when I was on the boat watching it burn.
COOPER: Next: an unknown fate -- the wives of the oil workers trying to reach their husbands and, they say, being kept in the dark.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was one moment, I thought I was fixing to have a nervous breakdown. And I had to pull it together, because I knew I still had my son there to take care of, and I knew that I had to find out, you know, if Matt was OK or not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: I'm Joe Johns.
"Deepwater Disaster: Survivor Stories" continues in a moment -- first, a 360 news and business bulletin.
The death doll from a flash flood that swept through a packed campground in Arkansas is at least 16, with dozens believed missing and feared dead. The governor told CNN there's no way to know exactly how many are unaccounted for. Heavy rains caused the Little Missouri River to overflow early today as campers slept nearby.
In Peru, Joran van der Sloot was charged with murder and robbery in last week's slaying of 21-year-old Stephany Flores Ramirez. The 22-year-old Dutch citizen was ordered detained until trial. Van der Sloot was the prime suspect in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, an American teenager who vanished in Aruba five years ago.
After a choppy session, the Dow posted its first weekly gain in a month. The index took deep losses after a disappointing retail sales report, but closed up 38 points.
That's the latest -- back to "Deepwater Disaster: Survivor Stories" after this short break.
COOPER: Tonight we're bringing you our exclusive interviews with a group of survivors from the Deepwater Horizon rig.
In our candid and emotional conversations we're learning details about what happened on that rig back on April 20th. The full story, of course, isn't known yet. There are going to be investigations -- long and many investigations, but we've talked to five survivors who talk about their suffering and about their suffering and their families.
The wives of three of the survivors have gripping stories to tell about the fears that they faced on that day.
COOPER (voice-over): It was just dawn, about 5:45, when the phone woke Angela Hopkins-Jacobs. She didn't know that eight hours earlier 50 miles out in the Gulf the Deepwater Horizon had exploded. Her husband Matt worked on the rig.
ANGELA HOPKINS-JACOBS, WIFE OF BP EXPLOSION SURVIVOR: The lady said this is so and so with Transocean, and I lost it because I knew something was wrong. And she said that we've had to evacuate the rig, and I was hysterical.
I said is he OK? Is he OK? And she said I don't know any details. I can't tell you anything.
I had just lost it. My son, you know, was asking, what's wrong, what's wrong, and I said -- I couldn't, you know, speak.
COOPER: As the platform fire raged, Matt was waiting to be lowered from the rig in a lifeboat. The inferno, the damage so intense, he was certain he wouldn't make it out alive.
MATTHEW JACOBS, BP EXPLOSION SURVIVOR: I prayed for my family to let God know that -- you know, I love my wife and that I love my kids and that he would help me and everybody else get off the rig safely, and the whole time, you know, it's going through my mind.
You know, I'm never going to see my family again, you know, because this is it, you know. We're -- we're done.
COOPER (on camera): You were sure that was it for you?
JACOBS: Yes, sir.
A. JACOBS: I had started calling hospitals down in Louisiana, Alabama, because I heard on the news that they were taking some of the injured to the hospitals there.
They had no record of him being in the hospital, so you know, at that time I'm thinking, well, he's not injured. I don't know if he's dead.
COOPER (voice-over): That same morning no one from the company had contacted Daniel Barron's wife Amanda. She hadn't heard about the catastrophe and then her brother called.
AMANDA COOPER-BARRON, WIFE OF BP EXPLOSION SURVIVOR: He just goes, what rig does Dan work on again? And I said Deepwater Horizon, why? He goes, I thought it sounded too familiar. And I'm like, what -- you know, why do you need to know? What's going on? And he just -- his rig has exploded.
DANIEL BARRON III, BP EXPLOSION SURVIVOR: Can you imagine what our wives were going through? She didn't get a call until 2:00 that afternoon, and basically there's like hey, this is Transocean. We want to let you know your husband is on the boat, and she's like oh, my god, you know, what happened?
That's all we can tell you. We just want to let you know he's on the boat. So she doesn't know if I'm hurt, injured, you know, burned. She doesn't know anything.
COOPER: Doug Brown's wife Meccah did get a call in the middle of the night.
MECCAH BOYNTON-BROWN, WIFE OF BP EXPLOSION SURVIVOR: I was told he was injured. There was really no other information given at the time. I was told that he would be taken to a hospital but not knowing what hospital, in what state, and nobody contacting me telling me where he was going.
And so I really upset a lot of emergency rooms in the south calling hospital after hospital after hospital for hours trying to figure out where my husband was.
DOUG BROWN, BP EXPLOSION SURVIVOR: I had fractured my leg, and bruised some nerves, did some damage under my kneecap and pulled some ligaments, as well as some mild brain injury.
COOPER: That afternoon, after a desperate morning on the phone trying to find Doug, Meccah got another call from Transocean.
M. BROWN: I did receive a very rehearsed. I would probably put that's my best -- very rehearsed. There was -- there was an incident. We have no further information at this time. We'll call you when we know something else. Click.
COOPER: All three wives say Transocean seemed totally unprepared, just not able to handle a crisis the size of the Deepwater Horizon.
M. BROWN: I don't think the men and women that are out on rigs currently are really ultimately safe, and to ask my husband to go back out there, I'd rather work five part-time jobs to make -- to make ends meet than to ask him to put his life on the line.
COOPER: We sought reaction from Transocean to our reporting, and the company sent a statement. It reads, "Transocean's first commitment has always been the safety and well-being of its people."
The statement goes on to say, "Immediately following the news of the tragic accident on April 20th, Transocean family support groups were dispatched to Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to receive rescued crew members and support their families in every way they could."
It concludes, "This continues to be the top focus of the company and the entire Transocean family."
With the drilling behind schedule, the oil workers say the pressure on them was building. So were the risks, they say. Coming up accusations of unsafe conditions on the rig.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
D. BROWN: If they're going to cut corners and over look things, they're not being safe. They are jeopardizing us all out there.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: On April 20th, a series of explosions rocked the Deepwater Horizon. Flames engulfed the rig. The explosion triggered this massive oil leak.
Tonight, five survivors are speaking out about what they heard and what they saw leading up to the disaster. You'll learn of an argument between a BP executive and a Transocean official, an argument two of the workers say happened that morning over how to proceed with the drilling. A significant moment possibly central to a criminal case against BP.
Here's more from our exclusive interview.
COOPER (on camera): And you were saying they were cutting corners. What -- what would their motivation be?
D. BROWN: To finish the job faster, to save money.
COOPER: And you think that's what this is about? It was about saving time, saving money?
D. BROWN: Well, yes. They were over budget on it, so yes. They were cutting corners to -- for time and money.
COOPER (voice-over): Two of the men who survived the BP oil rig fire and collapse are trying to explain an argument they say they witnessed on the platform about 12 hours before the first explosion.
It was an argument, they say, between Transocean and BP managers.
D. BROWN: The meeting was a pre-tower meeting basically. They go over the day's events, what's going to be taking place on the drill floor. And while I was giving the company man basically jumped up and says no, we've got some changes.
COOPER (on camera): The company man is from BP?
D. BROWN: Yes.
COOPER: The driller is Transocean.
D. BROWN: The driller is Transocean, yes. And the company man basically said we have some changes to that. We're going to be doing something different. I recall it was something about displacing the riser with the seawater for that tower.
COOPER: Taking drilling mud out.
D. BROWN: Yes.
COOPER: And replacing it with seawater?
D. BROWN: Yes.
COOPER (voice-over): Brown and others say the argument raised concerns because replacing dense mud with seawater meant less pressure to hold the oil down.
(On camera): Why would they want to displace it with salt water?
D. BARRON: To make it quicker for the production well to get in once we capped the well.
COOPER: That was the idea. They wanted to close off the well.
D. BARRON: They were getting ready to go to the next well and they were there trying, you know, to make it easier for the production crew to get it because it took so much time for us to drill this well and get it done.
COOPER (voice-over): Drilling on the Deepwater Horizon was already five weeks behind schedule, according to the rig workers, and a rough cost of $750,000 a day, that delay meant the project was more than $26 million over budget.
The survivors say there was pressure to finish the drilling and begin actually pumping out oil.
(On camera): You're saying this was an argument between some Transocean people and the guy from BP?
D. BROWN: Correct, and basically he ended up saying, well, this is how it's going to be, and they started reluctantly agreeing and --
COOPER: You're saying the guy from BP won the argument basically? He basically said this is how we're going to do it?
D. BROWN: Yes, that's what I remember, yes. He basically said, well, this is how it's going to be.
COOPER: Dan, do you think that, too? That this was about saving time, saving money for BP, for Transocean?
D. BARRON: Yes. Yes. And it just bothers me that Transocean would let them, you know, as much as Transocean preaches safety, you know, it doesn't make sense that Transocean would just fold like that if it wasn't over money.
COOPER (voice-over): Attorney Steve Gordon represents all five survivors we interviewed.
(On camera): You're saying that BP was negligent, yes?
STEVE GORDON, ATTORNEY SURVIVORS: At least.
COOPER: At least.
GORDON: That's putting it nicely. I would say --
COOPER: How would you put it?
GORDON: Well, I -- I've seen negligence. I've seen gross negligence, and this conduct is criminal, what they did.
GORDON: Yes. There's a crime scene sitting 5,000 feet below the water.
COOPER: What way do you think that they are criminally negligent?
GORDON: You heard my clients say that BP came in and overrode the decision of the driller at Transocean. When they did that, they in essence took over on that day, and the decision that they made to displace the mud with salt water on a well that they knew had dangerous propensities I believe is criminal.
COOPER: What do you think was more important to BP or to Transocean -- time and money or safety?
D. BARRON: Time and money, in all honesty. I mean they preach safety. It's like safety is only convenient for them when they need it. You know, you're pressured and you're pushed to do things, and if you say, hey, you know, everybody has the right to call time-out for safety, but you do it.
You're going to get run off, you know. You're going to get fired, and they are not going to fire you for that, but they are going to figure out a way eventually to get rid of you.
COOPER: And you've seen that happen?
D. BARRON: Yes. I have actually, yes, I have.
COOPER (voice-over): Even on that argument on the day of the explosion the survivors we talked to said they had had other concerns.
D. BARRON: There was always like an ominous feeling when we were on that well, you know, and a lot of people were telling everybody else, you know, on the rig, you know, it was like chatter that, you know, we're messing with Mother Nature right now.
I mean, there was always something, you know, either a kick or we're getting stuck or we're getting large amounts of gas.
COOPER (on camera): And what is a kick?
D. BARRON: A kick is when we get an air bubble or a gas bubble coming up, or the mud water coming up.
COOPER: And that's a problem? I mean that's --
D. BARRON: Yes.
COOPER: The CEO of BP, Tony Hayward, he makes a big deal about the company's safety record and that safety is their number one priority. Do you -- do you believe that?
D. BROWN: I believe he believes it. And I --
COOPER: You think he's wrong?
D. BROWN: I used to believe it, but after this incident I'm not so sure I do anymore. Not after what I've seen. They're not being safe. They're jeopardizing us all out there.
COOPER: Matt, do you believe that safety was their number one concern?
M. JACOBS: Uhm-mm. All BP is worried about is -- is money.
COOPER: When you hear BP's Tony Hayward say he wants his life back, what do you think?
D. BARRON: I want my life back. You know? I'm sure you want your life back, too.
M. JACOBS: Yes.
D. BARRON: And I'm sure, you know, there's 11 guys out there that their wives want them back.
D. BROWN: Yes. We all agree with that. He wants his life back. We all want our lives back. We want to be able to sleep a normal night's sleep for once. We'd like all those D. BROWN: families out there of the 11 who don't have their husbands, their fathers, their sons, I'm sure they would want them back, but he wants his life back.
What about everyone else that was on that rig that night?
COOPER: CNN reached out to both BP and Transocean to respond to this story. The BP spokesman wouldn't comment on specific allegations but said BP's priority is always safety.
The Transocean spokesperson said in part, "Safety is the number one priority at Transocean, and there's no scenario or circumstance under which it will be compromised."
Regarding criminal allegations, a BP spokesperson said they will, quote, "cooperate with any inquiry the Department of Justice will undertake just as we're doing in response to the other inquiries that are already ongoing."
Coming up next, paying tribute to those who lost their lives. Remembering the men who died on the Deepwater Horizon when this 360 special continues.
COOPER: Eleven men died on the Deepwater Horizon, the oldest was 56, the youngest was just 22.
Jason Anderson was a toolpusher on the rig, the kind of guy his family says who didn't really like to go out fishing but went anyway just to spend time with his friends.
Donald Clark was an assistant driller, the father of four. He's remembered as soft spoken with an excellent work ethic.
Stephen Curtis was also an assistant driller. He was crazy about the outdoors and even wore a chamoed (ph) tuxedo vest on his wedding day.
Gordon Jones was a drilling fluid specialist and mud engineer. They call him a rabid LSU fan. His second son Maxwell was born after the rig exploded. He obviously never got to see him.
Wyatt Kemp was a derrick hand who loved hunting and fishing and remembered for his sense of humor and love of his family.
Karl Kleppinger Jr. was a floor hand on the rig. An army vet who served in Operation Desert Storm. He loved NASCAR and professional wrestling but cats not so much, I'm told. He actually called the family cat Dog.
Blair Manuel was a senior drilling fluid specialist whose credo for life was the four F's -- fun, family, friends and faith.
Dewey Revette was a driller. He's remembered for his smile and for giving everything he had to everything he did.
Shane Roshto was a floor hand and a deeply devoted family man. On the inside of his hard hat he wrote two dates -- his wedding date and his young son's birthday -- to get him through the bad days.
Adam Weise, he was also a floor hand. A former high school football star who's beloved in his own town.
And Dale Burkeen was a crane operator known as Bubba to those close to him. His friends and family he lived life large.
Tonight we honor these 11 men. Five survivors of the explosion share the horrifying moments when they last saw their co-workers. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
COOPER (voice-over): Some of the survivors saw a good friend of theirs die in the explosion. His name was Dale Burkeen, a crane operator on the rig.
D. BARRON: He was in the crane on the first explosion and was trying to get out of crane. I mean, he just -- he was running down the stairs. He was on the -- by the handrail about to come down to the stairs and then the second explosion happened.
And it literally picked him up. I mean, like -- like a child would throw a toy and -- and it had just picked him up and threw him, you know, over the handrail, and he ended up bouncing off of the pedestal for the crane.
He's like a father -- father figure on the rig because he was just so kind and would teach anything you needed to know and, you know, just to see him get blown up like that, I mean, it was -- it's heart wrenching. I cannot explain it.
COOPER (on camera): Was it the impact that -- did the explosion kill him or the fall?
D. BARRON: Yes, I think he was dead when it exploded.
CHRIS CHOY, BP EXPLOSION SURVIVOR: I ran to the -- my front fire station.
COOPER (voice-over): Chris Choy heard that Dale Burkeen had been injured. He and a fellow rig worker tried to rescue him.
CHOY: He said I seen Dale Burkeen, the crane operator. I see Dale down. He's -- he's down over by the starboard crane. He said it's too hot I can't get to him. So we put fire suits on to try to go get Dale, and before we could get there, there was another explosion, and that jut put massive flames in between us and the -- and that side of the deck.
We couldn't get to Dale, and it -- I mean, that feeling is just indescribable, knowing that I didn't know, you know, that he had fallen or anything like that. I just knew he was laying down on the deck right there, just knowing somebody is right there and there's nothing you can do for them.
COOPER (on camera): You couldn't get to him because of the flames then?
CHOY: Because of the flames.
COOPER: What was Dale like?
D. BROWN: Dale was like everybody's big brother. Best friend you could have. Would give you the shirt off his back. Anything you needed -- needed to talk to him, needed a friend to talk to -- Dale was the man. He looked after all his people that worked under him, and he was friends with everyone there.
COOPER (voice-over): Ten others died that night. Daniel Barron worked on the rig floor closest to the first explosion. Nine men were working there that moment. Only Daniel and one other survived.
D. BARRON: I don't imagine what it's like for -- for the wives who, you know, they are burying a box. They are burying a memory. They don't know how they died. They don't know where they were. They don't know what they were doing.
They were basically giving up their own life, you know, to save 120 something other people, and they are all heroes.
COOPER: Daniel is certain the men died trying to shut down the well, trying to prevent what would become a catastrophe.
D. BARRON: There's, you know, women and children, you know, fathers, mothers, brothers that will never see those 11 men again.
D. BROWN: And I'll never forget my fellow crew members that died. I knew five of them quite well for years. They are very good men, and this should not have happened to them.
COOPER: Remembering and honoring the victims of the Deepwater Horizon.
We'll continue to cover this disaster in the Gulf to give you the latest facts and to hold those responsible accountable.
Thanks for watching this special edition of 360. Good night.