Proceedings magazine is a communication tool for the Coast Guard's Marine Safety & Security Council. Each quarterly magazine focuses on a specific theme of interest to the marine industry.
Issue link: http://uscgproceedings.epubxp.com/i/264352
www.uscg.mil/proceedings 74 Proceedings Winter 2013–2014 Retrieving and Examining Physical Evidence The Evidence Yard As the frst pieces of physical evidence foated ashore in April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon joint investiga- tion team recognized the need for general evidence collection procedures and an evidence processing and storage facility. With that in mind, the JIT issued several subpoenas and an accompanying directive requiring that all parties involved in the response collect and preserve all evidence from the vessel, including the drilling equipment. In addition, the JIT issued guidance to all federal agencies involved in the response to ensure that all debris from the incident scene was collected and sent to the JIT for evaluation. Given the proximity of the Coast Guard Base Support Unit New Orleans to the JIT's base of operations in New Orleans, and the base's security, waterside access, and ample space, the BSU was the logical choice for the Deepwater Horizon "evidence yard." Later on in the investigation, while the joint investi- gation team was planning the retrieval of the subsea evidence, the team determined that the evidence facility needed to accommodate transportation, preservation, storage, and, most importantly, the forensic analysis of the subsea evidence. Given the size of the subsea evidence, like the blowout preventer (BOP) 1 , this was not an easy requirement to accommodate. After much deliberation, the JIT determined that NASA's Marshall Assembly Facility (MAF) met all of the aforementioned criteria. And, since BSU New Orleans was a tenant of NASA MAF, the proximity of both locations simplifed managing the evidence. Subsea Evidence The investigation team recognized early on that the physical evidence at the bottom of the ocean would be critical to the investigation — in particular, the blowout preventer from the Macondo well. However, retrieving anything from the bottom of the ocean requires special equipment and skills. Furthermore, evidence retrieval eforts could not interfere with the ongoing response eforts. So, the investigation team embedded a liaison at the incident command post in Houston, Texas, whose purpose was to coordinate evidence collec- tion eforts and leverage the response structure and assets. To that end, the incident commander estab- lished the investigations planning group, made up of representatives from the Coast Guard, MMS, the FBI, and the EPA. This group developed evidence collection, preser- vation, and transportation procedures for all subsea evidence, and these procedures were integrated into all relevant operations plans. The group also coordi- nated with the JIT representatives who were ofshore to witness and document evidence retrieval eforts. With multiple response vessels and ROVs on scene, choreography of the operations and the personnel was no simple task. Forensic Analysis As the condition of the blowout preventer from the Macondo well was of particular interest, and the federal government did not possess the expertise and specialized equipment to dismantle and analyze this and other key pieces of physical evidence, the MMS hired the engineering service frm Det Norske Veritas (DNV). From October 2010 to July 2011, DNV personnel disas- sembled the BOP and documented the condition of every part as well as the drilling equipment trapped inside it. The FBI evidence response team worked alongside DNV and documented every item as well. When needed, fuid and material samples were sent to labs for analysis. In the end, DNV representatives used laser scanning to develop three-dimensional models of the evidence, then used animations to show how all of the pieces went together and how the blowout preventer failed. Endnote: 1. There are two basic types of blowout preventers (BOPs): ram and annular. They come in a variety of styles, sizes, and pressure ratings. The Deepwater Horizon BOP stack included seven individual BOPs. Winter �2013_45.indd 74 2/10/14 9:32 AM