NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Two BP rig supervisors and a former BP executive pleaded not guilty Wednesday to criminal charges stemming from the deadly Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and the company's response to the massive 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
BP well site leaders Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine, along with former BP vice president of exploration for the Gulf David Rainey, remained free on bond following their arraignments in federal court.
Kaluza and Vidrine are charged with manslaughter in the deaths of 11 rig workers. They are accused of disregarding abnormally high pressure readings that should have been glaring indications of trouble just before the blowout of BP's Macondo well.
Rainey was charged separately with concealing information from Congress about the amount of oil that was leaking from the well. Millions of gallons of crude oil spewed from BP's well for months.
Kaluza professed his innocence on his way into court, making his first public comments since the April 2010 explosion that killed his co-workers.
"I think about the tragedy of the Deepwater Horizon every day," Kaluza told reporters. "But I did not cause this tragedy. I am innocent and I put my trust, reputation and future in the hands of the judge and the jury."
Kaluza and Vidrine's lawyers both accused the Justice Department of using their clients as scapegoats. They noted that other government investigations have spread out the blame for the disaster and concluded it was the product of a complex series of mistakes, made both onshore and on the rig.
"Bob and Don did their jobs," said Shaun Clarke, one of Kaluza's attorneys. "They did them correctly and they did them in accordance with their training."
Robert Habans, one of Vidrine's lawyers, said his client diligently followed instructions he received from engineers and others onshore.
"He's not the architect or the engineer. He didn't design the well, and he didn't make the critical decisions in this case," Habans said.
The case against Kaluza and Vidrine centers on their roles in supervising "negative testing," which is designed to assess whether a cement barrier is effectively preventing oil or gas from flowing up the well. The indictment says they had "multiple indications" from the negative testing that the well wasn't secure. Yet they allegedly failed to alert onshore engineers about the problems during the testing, accepted a "nonsensical explanation" for abnormal pressure readings and eventually decided to stop investigating.