The 5 Worst Oil Rig Disasters in History
The 5 Worst Oil Rig Disasters in History
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The 5 Worst Oil Rig Disasters in History

Thousands of oil spills occur every year, but most of these incidents involve only a small amount of lost oil. However, oil rig disasters are often catastrophic events. When an oil rig experiences bad weather or a mechanical failure, there’s little that can be done to stop the destruction.

Not all oil rig disasters inflict the same level of damage, though. In addition to the impact of an oil spill, these events can lead to the tragic deaths of workers who spent their lives working on oil rigs. To date, five oil rig disasters in particular stand out as some of the deadliest in human history.

1. Piper Alpha: The Worst Disaster to Date

The Piper Alpha oil rig disaster is generally regarded as the worst oil rig disaster in human history. It occurred 120 miles off the coast of Scotland on July 6th, 1988. The rig exploded due to gas flooding the rig’s engine pump. This accident killed 165 workers on the rig, and many of their bodies were never recovered from the North Sea.

The lives lost and the significant impact on oil production in the U.K. region make it the deadliest and one of the most expensive oil rig disasters to date. At today’s rate, the spill cost around $5 billion.

2. Alexander L. Kielland: Structural Failures in High Winds

The Alexander L. Kielland was a Norwegian drilling rig. On March 27, 1980, extreme winds and high waves caused the rig’s anchor cables to break. As a result, the partially submersible vessel capsized in the North Sea.

Of the 212 workers aboard, 123 were killed in the disaster. The event held the record as the deadliest oil rig disaster until eight years later, when the Alpha Piper incident resulted in an even higher death toll.

Ultimately, it was determined that faulty welding was the underlying cause, leading the rig to develop a fatigue crack in one of the bracings. The disaster led to a change in emergency response policies in the North Sea, as many of the deaths could have been prevented with a more effective response.

3. The Deepwater Horizon: One of the Largest Oil Spills on Record

The Alpha Piper and Alexander L. Kielland incidents were noteworthy due to their high death tolls. The Deepwater Horizon disaster, however, holds the record for the largest oil spill in history.

The incident occurred in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010. Caused by a natural gas explosion that capsized the rig, this disaster killed 11 workers and led to an estimated 134 million gallons of oil being spilled into the Gulf.

The environmental impact of the Deepwater spill was catastrophic. Cleanup has taken over a decade and continues into the present day. Birds were particularly impacted by the spill, with an estimated 800,000 killed from either ingesting oil or being unable to regulate body temperature due to oil contamination.

4. The Bohai 2: Broken Pump Leads to a Capsized Rig

The Bohai 2 was a Chinese oil rig that capsized in the Gulf of Bohai in November 1979. The event is regarded as China’s deadliest oil rig disaster.

Of the 76 workers aboard, 72 perished when the rig capsized. The rig was caught in a storm, which made the vessel’s ventilator pump break off. The resulting hole in the floor led to instability, eventually causing the rig to capsize.

5. The Seacrest Drillship: Capsized During a Typhoon

The Seacrest Drillship was a U.S. drilling rig. The vessel was caught in a typhoon in the Gulf of Thailand on November 3, 1989. The typhoon caused the rig to capsize, resulting in the deaths of 91 workers. It’s known as one of the most expensive oil rig disasters. This was in part because the high death toll resulted in multiple lawsuits against Unocal, the oil company that owned the rig.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who Is Liable for Oil Rig Disasters?

Liability for an oil rig disaster can be a complicated topic. Usually, the operator or owner of the facility that loads the oil onto a rig is held legally responsible for the cleanup costs. However, litigation can become complex when it comes to ascribing fault for an oil disaster.

Are you or your company being blamed for an oil spill or worker fatalities that you think another party is at fault for? If so, you should contact a business litigation attorney with experience handling oil industry cases as soon as possible.

What Type of Lawyer Represents an Oil Company?

The costs associated with a serious oil rig disaster can easily stretch into the billions. In addition to cleanup costs, a company is left to deal with the lost oil and the potential of personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits heading their way.

If you are the owner or operator of a company involved in an oil disaster, you need a business litigation attorney with experience in the oil industry to get started on your case immediately.

What Type of Lawyer Represents Oil Rig Disaster Victims?

If an oil rig disaster was the cause of your illness or injury, you need to speak with a personal injury lawyer. A lawyer will identify whether you have adequate grounds for filing a claim against the party responsible for the oil rig disaster.

Legal Representation After an Oil Rig Disaster

It’s no secret that oil rig disasters are incredibly destructive. They destroy the environment, harm human health, and lead to complex legal and financial issues for the oil companies involved.

At Dunn Sheehan, our experienced attorneys are well-versed in the complexities that accompany an oil rig disaster. Our business litigation attorneys have subject-matter knowledge in oil industry litigation, while our experienced personal injury lawyers help oil rig victims recover the injury compensation they need.

Call Dunn Sheehan today to learn more about how one of our experienced attorneys can help you move forward after an oil rig disaster.

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