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 Proceedings Winter 2013–2014 72 However, when a vessel (such as the one involved in this incident) sinks, the scene of the incident is 70 miles off- shore and 5,000 feet below the ocean's surface, the main witnesses are missing, and the key pieces of evidence are mammoth in size — establishing a timeline can be complicated. Nevertheless, the frst order of business was to identify all of the survivors and to determine which ones to inter- view. All survivors were asked to provide a written state- ment detailing their role aboard the vessel, their location at the time of the frst explosion, and their recollections of the events. After reviewing the statements, investiga- tors split into two teams to interview the key witnesses. While the witnesses were interviewed offshore, inves- tigating officers at Marine Safety Unit Morgan City arranged for post-casualty drug testing and prepared for the major investigation that would soon manifest. Meanwhile, the Offce of Investigations and Analysis at Coast Guard headquarters established a dialogue with the Department of the Interior and MMS headquarters in anticipation of convening a formal investigation into the incident. They searched for candidates who were quali- fed to perform a Marine Board of Investigation, and staff members were sent to New Orleans to establish a base of operations for the investigators, and to make the logisti- cal arrangements for the public hearings to accompany the formal investigation. On April 20, 2010, a series of explosions and fre onboard the Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit Deepwater Horizon set off a chain of events that resulted in the loss of 11 mari- ners, and the eventual sinking and complete loss of the vessel. This would become the largest oil spill disaster in U.S. history. Due to the magnitude of the event, U.S. Coast Guard per- sonnel and the public focused much of their attention on the rescue and response operations. However, a group of CG investigators and members of the Minerals Manage- ment Service (MMS) (which evolved into the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the Bureau of Offshore Energy Management) had a different mis- sion in mind — to determine what went wrong and the cause of this fatal disaster. The First Investigators On Scene On the afternoon of April 21, 2010, MMS and Coast Guard investigators reached the scene of the incident. With the Deepwater Horizon still burning on the horizon, they boarded an offshore supply vessel, loaded with a majority of the survivors. The first step in a marine investigation process is to establish a timeline of events, which involves: • inspecting the incident scene; • gathering and recording physical evidence; • interviewing witnesses; • reviewing documents, procedures, and records; • conducting any required specialized studies. Lessons Learned The Big Spill A glimpse into the largest marine casualty investigation in Coast Guard history. by CDR MICHAEL SIMBULAN Investigating Offcer and Enforcement Program Manager U.S. Coast Guard Offce of Investigations and Analysis Coast Guard liaison to the USCG-MMS Joint Investigations Team Winter �2013_45.indd 72 2/10/14 9:32 AM