One year ago today, 28-year-old Gordon Jones was one of 11 workers killed aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded April 20. Today we speak to his father, Keith Jones, who has been critical of the operators of the rig. “BP and Halliburton and Transocean peeled back layer after layer after layer of safety protections, one after another, until this blowout was inevitable,” says Keith Jones. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn now to Keith Jones. Keith Jones lost his son Gordon — he was 28 years old — a year ago today in the BP oil spill explosion. First of all, our condolences. I know this is a difficult day for you today, Keith.
KEITH JONES: It is.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about your son. Tell us who he was, how he ended up on the rig.
KEITH JONES: First of all, Gordon was the kind of guy that many of us know, in that — I came to accept a long time ago that not everybody likes me, it’s OK. But Gordon was the kind of person who everybody liked. He just was — had a wonderful sense of humor. He was able to sort of get away with saying things sometimes that I couldn’t say. People would get mad at me. People would just laugh when Gordon would say it. He just — he was the kind of person who everybody looked forward to the next time they were going to see, including me. I was his dad, but I looked forward to when Gordon would come home from the rig. I looked forward to the next time I’d get to see him, because it was something to look forward to. And all of his friends were like that. Gordon was quite a — quite a guy.
He wound up on the rig because of me. I happened to be talking to an old fraternity brother when Gordon was still in college, and he told me that he sold mud, drilling fluid, for a company named M-I SWACO. And what he basically did was play golf three or four times a week and tell jokes to guys he was selling mud to. And I said, "Tom, I have a son who would be perfect at that job." And Gordon was a scratch golfer. He was a terrific golfer. And that added to it, because they were playing in tournaments where having a really good golfer on your team is a great advantage. So, a year or two went by. Gordon graduated from college and sold life insurance for a while, didn’t — nothing that he liked to do. And then there was an opening in mud school, and my friend got him in. For five years, I took credit for getting Gordon that job. And now, I know that I’m the reason why he was out on that rig. And I know that’s not a valid intellectual thought, but it’s an emotional feeling that I’ve had to deal with.
AMY GOODMAN: Tell us, Keith, what he was doing on the rig and what you understand happened to him.
KEITH JONES: Gordon was a mud engineer. Mud engineers are specially trained men on the rig who are responsible for advising as to the drilling fluid. Drilling fluid, called mud, is a substance that’s used to lubricate the bit, to facilitate the return of what they cut away at the bottom of the well. And it’s also, as many of us know now, responsible because of its weight for holding down the oil and gas that’s under such tremendous pressure at the bottom of the well.
So, Gordon was on the rig. It was — it’s ironic that the truth of the matter is that Gordon didn’t need to be on that rig. No mud engineers needed to be on it, because they weren’t drilling anymore, and you only need a mud engineer when you’re drilling. There was another man who was killed, Blair Manuel, who was employed by the M-I SWACO, and he was what they call a completions guy, who was more responsible for advising when they were completing a well, as they were. But the rules say you’ve got to have mud engineers on board, and so they had mud engineers on board.
That night, the other mud engineer, who shared 12-hour shifts with Gordon, looked tired, beat, to Gordon. And Gordon had already eaten. He had already said good night to Michelle by telephone. So he told the other mud engineer to go to bed, and took his place a little early. So, in one way, Gordon died doing the sort of thing that Gordon did, which is doing an unsolicited favor for a friend. But also, just like Gordon, his friend told me, he says, "I think that the last thing Gordon said to me is, ’I’m tired of looking at your face,’ to try to force him — you know, to convince him to get out of there and go to bed. That’s the way Gordon was. And that’s a fond memory he has of being mildly insulted by Gordon in an effort to make him go to bed. And he came to the house a couple days after the explosion to tell Michelle to make sure she told her two boys, because they knew then that she was going have another boy, Maxwell Gordon — made sure he tell those two boys that Gordon saved his life. And that means a lot to us, to have had — and he was a terrific guy to have made the effort and said that. He could have hidden behind survivor’s guilt, I guess, and kept that to himself, but he didn’t. He shared that, and that meant a lot to me.
AMY GOODMAN: Keith Jones, last month President Obama outlined his energy blueprint for reducing American dependence on foreign oil, emphasizing new technology, alternative sources and, quote, “safe and responsible offshore drilling.”
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: My administration is encouraging offshore oil exploration and production, as long as it’s safe and responsible. I don’t think anybody here has forgotten what happened last year, where we had to deal with the largest oil spill in history.
AMY GOODMAN: There was President Obama. He says people haven’t forgotten, but he’s authorized offshore drilling. Keith Jones, your thoughts?
KEITH JONES: I know that — I know this. I’m no expert. I think what we all know now is that there’s a lot safer way to drill than the way they drilled, that they —- that BP and Halliburton and Transocean peeled back layer after layer after layer of safety protections, one after another, until this blowout was inevitable. Had they not done that, the blowout -—
AMY GOODMAN: We have five seconds, Keith, I hate to say.
KEITH JONES: That’s OK —- couldn’t have happened. What worries me is that we’re not doing safe -—
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there, but I thank you so much for being with us on this broadcast, Keith Jones, Dahr Jamail. I’m Amy Goodman, thanks for joining us.