Photos: The BP spill revisited

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  1. Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana on April 21, 2010. (USCG) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Smoke from the Deepwater Horizon rises high above the Gulf of Mexico on April 21, 2010. The rig sank the next day. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A Northern Gannet, normally white when fully grown, is washed to remove oil from the spill at a facility in Fort Jackson, La., on April 30. (Alex Brandon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Glenn Corbett, of Pensacola, Fla., gets help from his granddaughter Emma Wilmoth, 5, as they joined hundreds of volunteers picking up trash along Escambia County beaches on May 2, 2010. Officials organized the massive beach cleanup in anticipation of an oil slick. (Scott Keeler / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Mark DeFelice, executive chef at Pascal's Manale restaurant in New Orleans, lines up Eastern oysters for customers on May 3, 2010. The oysters were harvested from Louisiana waters before the oil slick caused fishing and harvesting closures. (David Friedman / Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Alabama National Guardsmen assemble a barrier to block oil on Dauphin Island, Ala., on May 4, 2010. (Dan Anderson / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Rob Lewis, center, and Dexter Strange unload crab traps from their boats on May 5, 2010, after having to dump their catch in Shell Beach, La., due to the oil spill. (Sandy Huffaker / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Conservationist Rick Steiner collects a sample of oily water near Breton Island, La., on May 5, 2010. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Some of the oil leaked from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead is seen on May 6, 2010. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Greenpeace marine biologist Paul Horsman surveys oil pooled between reeds and brush at the mouth of the Mississippi River on May 17, 2010. (Hans Deryk / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Dispersed oil caught in the wake of a transport boat floats some 15 miles northwest of the spill site on May 18, 2010. (Hans Deryk / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, center, and Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, right, tour the oil impacted marsh of Pass a Loutre, La., on May 19, 2010. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Nesting pelicans are seen as oil washes ashore May 22 on an island that is home to hundreds of brown pelican nests as well as terns, gulls and roseate spoonbills in Louisiana's Barataria Bay. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. A BP cleanup crew removes oil from a beach at Port Fourchon, La., on May 23. (John Moore / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A sign warns the public away from the beach on Grand Isle, La., on May 23. (John Moore / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Oil streaks into the Gulf of Mexico on May 26 near Brush Island, La. (Win Mcnamee / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. An image taken from a BP video feed shows a robotic arm using a wrench during the "top kill" procedure on May 27. The bid to stop the flow failed. (BP via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A brown pelican coated in heavy oil wallows in the surf on East Grand Terre Island, La., on June 4. (Win McNamee / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A worker cleans up oil in Plaquemines Parish, La., on June 4. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. A cleanup worker picks up blobs of oil with absorbent snare on Queen Bess Island in Louisiana's Barataria Bay on June 4. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Tar balls sit on the beach in Orange Beach, Ala., on June 5. (Dave Martin / AP file) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Workers use absorbent pads to remove oil in Grand Isle, La., on June 6. (Eric Gay / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. This protest at a BP gas station in Pensacola, Fla., on June 6 targeted the oil giant. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. A dead sea turtle floats on a pool of oil in Barataria Bay off Louisiana on June 7. (Charlie Riedel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Jars of water mixed with oil collected off Louisiana and Alabama are stacked in front of Gulf Coast residents as they attend a news conference June 16 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Thick crude oil from the BP spill is seen in Barataria Bay near Port Sulphur, La., on June 20. (Erik S. Lesser / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. James McGee vacuums oil in Barataria Bay on June 20. (Patrick Semansky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Out of work fishermen seeking to be hired as cleanup crew talk to BP representatives in Larose, La., on June 20. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. People line up in Pensacola, Fla., on June 26 to protest offshore oil drilling during a 'Hands Across the Sand' event. The protest took place in hundreds of cities across 30 countries. (Dan Anderson / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. With no tourists to hire him, fishing guide Raymond Griffin eats lunch in a nearly empty cookhouse at Griffin Fishing Charters in Lafitte, La., on June 26. (Patrick Semansky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. A heavily oiled bird is rescued from the waters of Barataria Bay on June 26. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. In this image taken from video on July 12, oil flows out of the top of the transition spool, which was placed into the gushing wellhead prior to the well being capped. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Oily water washes ashore in Orange Beach, Ala., on June 26. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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updated 4/20/2011 7:15:50 PM ET 2011-04-20T23:15:50

Relatives flew over Gulf of Mexico waters on Wednesday where 11 oil rig workers died a year ago, residents gathered in quiet prayer vigils onshore and President Barack Obama vowed to hold BP and others accountable for "the painful losses that they've caused."

Somber remembrances marked the one-year anniversary of the rig explosion that caused the worst offshore oil spill in American history. But all is not bleak. Beaches, restaurants and hotels are filling up again, and experts say the resilient Gulf is on the mend.

The disaster began on the night of April 20, 2010, when the Deepwater Horizon rig burst into flames and killed the 11 men. The rest of the crew evacuated, but two days later the rig toppled into the Gulf and sank to the sea floor. Over the next 85 days, 206 million gallons of oil — 19 times more than the Exxon Valdez spilled — spewed from the well.

Parents, siblings and wives of the workers — whose bodies were never recovered — boarded a helicopter Wednesday to see the waters where their loved ones perished. The helicopter took them from New Orleans out to the well site, circled around so that people on both sides of the aircraft could see and then returned to shore, said Arleen Weise, whose son, Adam, was killed on the rig. The only indication they were at the site was an announcement from the pilot, she said.

"It was just a little emotional, seeing where they were," Weise said by phone from Houston, where rig owner Transocean planned an evening memorial service.

Asked what went through her mind when she saw where the rig went down, Weise said, "Just rise up. I wanted them to come up, but it didn't happen."

In a statement, President Barack Obama paid tribute to those killed in the blast and said that despite significant progress toward mitigating the spill's worst impacts, "the job isn't done."

"We continue to hold BP and other responsible parties fully accountable for the damage they've done and the painful losses that they've caused," he said.

A presidential commission has concluded that a cascade of technical and managerial failures — including a faulty cement job — caused the disaster. BP, the oil giant which owns the blown-out well, has paid billions in cleanup costs and to compensate victims. The company has estimated its total liability at $40.9 billion, but it might have to pay many billions more, especially if its officials were to be found criminally negligent in still pending investigations and trials. For now, though, the company has rebounded relatively well, with its stock now just 20 percent below its pre-spill value.

On Wednesday, BP sued the maker of the blowout preventer, Cameron International. In papers filed in federal court in New Orleans, BP alleges that Cameron provided a blowout preventer with a faulty design, and in doing so caused an unreasonable amount of risk that harm would occur.

The suit seeks damages to help BP pay for the tens of billions of dollars in liabilities it has incurred from the disaster. A testing firm hired by the government determined last month the blowout preventer had a faulty design. But it also cited other problems related to rig crew actions.

Cameron didn't immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

Elsewhere in New Orleans, at a candle-lit ceremony in Jackson Square shortly after sunrise, environmentalists and religious leaders joined to remember the perished rig workers and call on the nation to take the steps to prevent another environmental catastrophe.

"Our souls are slumbering in moral indifference," said Rabbi Edward Cohn of the Temple Sinai in New Orleans. "People quite rightly are asking: How and when, and by whose insistence and stubborn support, will the public's mind be refocused upon what happened in the Gulf?"

Elsewhere around the world, BP employees were observing a minute of silence.

"We are committed to meet our obligations to those affected by this tragedy and we will continue our work to strengthen safety and risk management across BP," BP chief executive Bob Dudley said in a message on the company's website. "But most of all today, we remember 11 fellow workers and we deeply regret the loss of their lives."

The solemn ceremonies underscore the delicate healing that is only now taking shape. Oil still occasionally rolls up on beaches in the form of tar balls, and fishermen face an uncertain future.

Louis and Audrey Neal of Pass Christian, Miss., who make their living from crabbing, said it's gotten so bad since the spill that they're contemplating divorce and facing foreclosure.

"I don't see any daylight at the end of this tunnel. I don't see any hope at all. We thought we'd see hope after a year, but there's nothing," Audrey Neal said.

"We ain't making no money. There's no crabs," said Louis Neal, a lifelong crabber.

His wife said the couple received about $53,000 from BP early on, but that was just enough money to cover three months of debt. They haven't received any funds from an administrator handing out compensation from a $20 billion fund set up by BP, they said.

Still, there are some signs that normalcy is returning. Traffic jams on the narrow coastal roads of Alabama, crowded seafood restaurants in Florida and families vacationing along the Louisiana coast attest to the fact that familiar routines are returning, albeit slowly.

John Williams spent the oil spill anniversary trying to catch mackerel on the fishing pier at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Ala. Hundreds lined the pier.

The state banned anglers from keeping their catch off the pier last year because of the oil, but coolers were full of big redfish and king mackerel on Wednesday.

"People will be back. It's pretty down here, and it's good to be out here," said Williams, of Daphne.

Members of 10 Alabama churches gathered on a public beach in Orange Beach, Ala., during a daylong prayer vigil. As families played in the surf and BP cleanup workers scoured the beach a few miles west for tarballs, Abe Feingold sat under an awning with friends and said a prayer.

"It's for BP not to forget us," said Feingold, of Orange Beach. "If they keep reimbursing people, we'll recover."

Most scientists agree that environmental damage wasn't as bad as some predicted, said Christopher D'Elia, dean at the School of the Coast and Environment at Louisiana State University. But biologists are still concerned about the spill's long-term effect on marine life.

Accumulated oil is believed to lie on the bottom of the Gulf, and it still shows up as a thick, gooey black crust along miles of Louisiana's marshy shoreline. Scientists have begun to notice that the land in many places is eroding, and plants have been damaged.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said more than 300 miles of Louisiana coastline continues to see some BP oil. He was joined by the presidents of six coastal parishes for a commemoration on Grand Isle, a coastal barrier island that took major impact from the oil.

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Playing on a theme in BP's advertising during the spill, Jindal urged the company to continue to fund coastal restoration and to speed up claims payments to those affected by the oil. "We continue to call on BP to fulfill the promises of their ads. We continue to call on BP to truly make it right."

Earlier Wednesday, Ted Petrie, back from his first shrimping run since the spill, docked his boat at the Grand Isle marina.

He said he worries about the Gulf fishing industry's long-term prospects. That's why he is opting to pursue his claim against BP in court rather than settle for a quick payout from the company's fund, as many of his fellow fishermen have done.

Still, he said he's grateful to be back on the water doing the job he has done for 40 years. He hauled in about 2,000 pounds of shrimp in three days, enough for a modest profit.

"It feels good," said Petrie, 50. "A fisherman has it in their blood. They just like to do it."

Seventeen family members, one Transocean official and two pilots were aboard the chopper that flew the families to the site for the three-hour round-trip. Transocean had invited up to three members of each family to attend the flyover, but some families declined.

Janet Woodson, whose brother Aaron Burkeen was killed on the rig, also was on the helicopter ride.

"It was OK, but sad even though there was nothing there," she told the AP.


Associated Press writers Melissa Nelson in Pensacola, Fla.; Jay Reeves in Gulf Shores, Ala.; Brian Skoloff in Salt Lake City, Utah; Michael Kunzelman in Grand Isle, La., and Kevin McGill in New Orleans contributed to this report. Videographer Jason Bronis contributed from Baton Rouge, La.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: One year after Gulf spill, oil remains

  1. Closed captioning of: One year after Gulf spill, oil remains

    >>> a year to the day after the deep water horison oil rig explosion fell into the waters of mexico, killing 11 workers, some of the survivors, family workers flew over that site today, and sin that day, grief has been mixed with anger over this disaster all along the gulf coast . our chief environmental affairs correspondent is with us tonight.

    >> reporter: good evening, late today, bp filed suit against the maker of the blow-out preventers alleging a faulty design contributed to the oil spill . some of that oil is still in louisiana's marshes, and now officials here are trying to decide if the effort to clean it up is worth the risk to this fragile coastline. one year later, there are still clean-up workers in one of the most heavily oiled areas in louisiana' coast. using a giant hedge clipper , they cut a marsh to get at the oil trapped by the grasses. a giant rake gets the debris.

    >> this is a little bit of resid ial left.

    >> it has a sticky consistency.

    >> it's kind of like a peanut butter consistency. if you try to get it all, you would really be potentially excavating the marsh and losing it.

    >> reporter: 60 miles away , another area devastated by the spill, a path of blanks leads the way to the path of oil. the pungent odor of the summer is gone, but all it takes is a couple shovel fulls of muck and you can see the tell tale rust colored signs of oil.

    >> the sheen on the surface.

    >>> james peters who makes his living leading deep- sea fishing trips is seeing it, too.

    >> you can see a sheen and oil droplets in the water.

    >> there is no more visible oil on the island where we first saw the pictures. how healthy does cat island look to you?

    >> frankly, it doesn't look too healthy.

    >> he points to the dying man mangroves on the edge and the leafless interior. still, pelicans make their nest here. for all the effort of the past year, environmentalists say cleanup without coast restoration is pointless.

    >> it's for naught because in five years all of that's going to be eroded away. in 50 years, it's all gone. everything you see is gone.

    >> now, finally tonight, the government is strongly disputing an associated press report that says 3,200 wells in the gulf of mexico do not have cement plug and threaten to leak oil into the waters. the government said those are sealed and they're monitored every six month.

Interactive: A year after the spill


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