BP official says there is an unconfirmed report of oil washing ashore on La. island

By Sarah Larimer, AP
Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Official says unconfirmed report oil at La. island

MOBILE, Ala. — An executive with BP PLC is saying there has been an unconfirmed report of oil washing ashore on a small Louisiana island.

BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said at a news conference Tuesday that more than 20 boats have been dispatched to Chandeleur Island to look for the oil, but so far haven’t been able to find it.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that the oil washed ashore at the mouth of the Mississippi River along the Louisiana coast.

Officials are saying the weather has improved significantly in the Gulf, allowing crews to lay more containment equipment as well as repair the booms that were damaged in rough weather.

Officials say they also hope to be able to again burn some of the oil offshore now that the winds have eased.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — This was supposed to be one of the best months of Michelle Jones’ life: giving birth to her second son, her husband Gordon at her side.

Instead, she must prepare for the birth without her baby’s father.

Gordon Jones, 28, was among the 11 who died when an oil rig exploded April 20 in the Gulf of Mexico. Nearly two weeks after the tragedy, relatives of the dead have held memorial services, sued rig operator BP-PLC and grappled with waves of grief as the catastrophe plays out on a worldwide stage — with barely a mention of their loved ones’ names.

“It seems like people have forgotten,” said Michelle Jones, who, at nine months pregnant, will give birth any day.

She and other victims’ family members aren’t casting blame; they understand the environmental impact is the reason why the spill has gotten so much attention and their loved ones, so little.

Had it been a plane crash or a tornado strike, grieving families and friends could at least to go the place where their loved ones died. They could lay a wreath and pray.

Not so with this disaster. The Deepwater Horizon oil rig was 50 miles south of the Louisiana coast. Because it exploded and burned — and is now a veritable underwater volcano of toxic, oily sludge — the final resting place of those 11 victims is a watery, inaccessible grave.

“I hope and I pray that when they get the oil spill cleaned up that they will have some kind of memorial for them and for the families out there,” said Janet Woodson, whose 37-year-old brother, Aaron Dale Burkeen, died in the accident. “That’s the last place he was at, and I would like to be there.”

Unlike another recent workplace tragedy, the West Virginia mine explosion that killed 29, the men who worked on the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf were not united by geography. The 11 victims came from three states: Louisiana, Mississippi and even Texas, commuting long distances to work.

Adam Weise, 24, lived in Yorktown, Texas, and drove 10 hours to Louisiana every three weeks to work on the rig. During his three weeks off, the former high school football star spent time with his girlfriend, hunted deer and fished from his boat.

“We celebrated his life on Saturday,” said his grandmother, Nelda Winslette. “At the Lutheran church, it was standing room only. That should tell you a little bit about him.”

Jason Anderson, a father of two who died during the explosion, was also from Texas.

Four men were from Mississippi: Karl Kleppinger Jr., 38, of Natchez; Dewey Revette, 48, of State Line; Shane Roshto, 22, of Liberty and Burkeen, 37, of Philadelphia.

Kleppinger was a 38-year-old Gulf War vet and a married father of one.

Revette’s family declined to comment on Sunday and Roshto’s family couldn’t be reached. Natalie Roshto, Shane’s wife, filed a lawsuit in Louisiana federal court on April 21, saying that she has been suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety since her husband went missing in the explosion.

Burkeen, whose family called him “Bubba,” had a wife and two kids. His favorite TV show was Man vs. Wild, said Woodson, his sister.

“We’d joke around. I’d say, ‘Bubba, when are you going to be somewhere where you need to survive?’” said Woodson. “And he’d say, ‘Anything ever happens to me on that rig, I will make it. I’ll float to an island somewhere. Y’all don’t give up on me, ‘cuz I will make it.’

“We was hoping that we were going to find him, on an island somewhere.”

The other men were from Louisiana.

Donald Clark of Newellton was 49. His family is still planning his memorial service.

Stephen Curtis was 40, married and had two teenagers. He taught his son to hunt and play baseball and was active in his church.

Blair Manuel was a 56-year-old engineer from Gonzalez with three daughters. He had season tickets to Louisiana State University baseball and football games, said his mother, Geneva Manuel.

Gordon Jones of Baton Rouge was also an engineer. He was 29, and had gotten off the phone with his wife Michelle just 10 minutes before the explosion.

“He was the glue that bound the family together,” said Michelle Jones.

He died just three days before their sixth anniversary.

Newly widowed on the brink of new motherhood, Michelle Jones is relying on those who love her.

“I’ve got a lot of good family and support,” she said, taking a deep breath. “It’ll be okay someday.”

The day her husband left to work for a two week shift, she said she gave him lots of extra hugs and kisses. He got up early and she followed him around the house and to the garage, hugging him. She thought she was just being emotional because she’s pregnant.

“I watched him drive away, from the window,” she said.

She thinks it was God’s way of allowing her to say goodbye.

All the families are learning that while the unfathomable tragedy of the oil spill unfolds in the Gulf — and in their hearts — life must go on.

Courtney Kemp, the widow of 27-year-old Roy Wyatt Kemp of Jonesville who died on the rig, answered the phone on Sunday. The happy squeals of children could be heard in the background.

She told a reporter that she couldn’t answer questions about her husband right then.

“We’re having a party today,” she said, crying. “Our oldest daughter just turned three.”

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