NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Tuesday, April 20, 2021 marks eleven years since the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico killing eleven workers and starting the largest oil spill in Gulf history.
A group of cleanup workers are still fighting for help more than a decade later. The images of the massive fire and cleaning crews dominated the summer of 2010 after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded about 40 miles off the Louisiana coast and sank two days later.
The damaged Macondo well released millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days. That oil drenched the Gulf Coast leading to thousands of workers exposed to the oil and chemical dispersants used to break up the surface slicks.
Retired Lieutenant General Russel Honore speaks out as an advocate for these workers.
“The workers went out and did what they were told to try to clean the beaches,” said Honore. He went on to say, “The substance they used was not approved for use in the United States. They did it anyhow and that dispersant is believed to be one of the primary issues why we have 2300 people who are ill. Some have died waiting.”
Sheree Kerner Stuart’s husband Frank Stuart died the day before the 8th anniversary of the disaster. She said, “They ran all kinds of test and it took about five weeks to be able to find out that he had acute myeloid leukemia which is directly related to benzene. He was so weak he couldn’t take any treatment and he died a week later.”
Honore said, “The federal courts here are slow. The first group of suits that went through where people signed off and got a very small payment so they wouldn’t sue BP (British Petroleum). The numbers I saw that was reported in the press that group of lawyers got a half of billion dollars.”
The settlement said those that became sick later could file individual claims. Kerner said, “There’s been about 4700 lawsuits filed in the Eastern District and as far as we know not one of them has moved forward to trial, settlement or verdict.”
Captain Joseph Brown and his wife blame their chronic illnesses on the spill. He said, “Apparently no one wants to help the people that are sick. They’ll help everybody else, but those that actually need help.”
Honore is very critical of state and federal officials. He said, “The Louisiana State Health Department they don’t track these sick people. CDC don’t track them. Nobody tracks them, but they are proud to stand up and say we got these many billion dollars this year to go try to save the coast and it’s BP money. BP come out looking like a hero.”
Honore is calling on the Biden administration and local leadership to create a coalition to help with healthcare for those effected. He also asks the Justice Department to help push forward the legal claims.
Fox 8 has reached out to the Eastern District of Louisiana for more information on the status of those legal claims.
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