Nightly News   |  May 27, 2010

BP exec on oil disaster: 'There were signals'

As Deepwater Horizon crewmembers angrily testified on Capitol Hill Thursday that BP and Transocean cut corners on safety, BP President Lamar McKay acknowledged that the company failed to recognize early warnings. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell reports.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Across town, on Capitol Hill in Washington , dramatic testimony about what happened April 20th , the day this Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded. It raises new questions about the events leading up to the accident. NBC 's Kelly O'Donnell has that part of the story. Kelly , good evening.

KELLY O'DONNELL reporting: Good evening, Brian . Unless you're down in the gulf, this is the only place where you can see people who are directly affected by this disaster, every kind of person, from the survivors to fishermen to corporate executives and more. And by hearing from them, Congress wants to know what happened and what needs to change. Powerful images today from these newly-released pictures taken by National Geographic and from snapshots taken by the family of Gordon Jones , who died on the rig, pictures brought to Capitol Hill by his father.

Mr. KEITH JONES: Everybody liked Gordon .

O'DONNELL: Keith Jones shared his wrenching loss and explained that three weeks after his son's death, Gordon 's wife gave birth to their second child. For Jones , the expectation BP 's business will someday recover is too much.

Mr. JONES: But Gordon will never be back. Never. And neither will any of the 10 good men who died with him.

O'DONNELL: Crew member Stephen Stone angrily testified that BP and Transocean cut corners.

Mr. STEPHEN STONE: They gambled with my life. They gambled with the lives of 11 of my crew members who will never see their families or loved ones again.

Mr. LAMAR McKAY (BP America Inc. President): My name is Lamar McKay .

O'DONNELL: BP 's president was here today, too, and did acknowledge they failed to recognize early warnings.

Mr. McKAY: I do believe it became a progressive event, is what it would appear, and that there were signals that mounted and there was an accumulative effect.

O'DONNELL: Congress wanted more information from the top executives about an argument hours before the explosion. Mechanic says he saw a skirmish between officials from BP and Transoceans about the well.

Representative NICK RAHALL (Democrat, West Virginia): Can either of you shed any additional light on exactly what this argument was about?

Mr. McKAY: I cannot.

Mr. STEVEN NEWMAN: Mr. Chairman, I don't know what the particular discussion related to, whether it was a task to be carried out later that day or what it related to.

O'DONNELL: Frustration and emotion can spill over here. This is personal for Louisiana Congressman Charles Melancon , who grieved over damage done back home.

Representative CHARLES MELANCON: Even though this marsh lies along coastal Louisiana , these are America 's wetlands.

O'DONNELL: And it is unusual to see such a raw nerve from a member of Congress , but there's other kinds of emotion playing out here, too. Lots of anger about allegations of corruption and incompetence at the federal agency that was supposed to be watching over all of this. And just about everyone tells you they feel impatient to get this well capped, and also to be able to get the resources there. And Congress will have a lot to say about getting money there, help there and trying to make changes going down -- going down the

line. Brian: And if you don't think this is an emotional issue, listen to that again. Kelly O'Donnell on Capitol Hill . Kelly ,