The Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion resulted in what's been named the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. On April 20th, 2010, the explosion on the rig took the lives of 11 workers and caused an estimated 3.19 million barrels of oil and methane gas to leak into the ocean for 87 straight days.
Caleb Holloway was on board the Deepwater Horizon the day of the explosion. Seeker's Kyle Thiermann spoke with Caleb about what happened that day, and his journey to recovery in the aftermath of this tragedy.
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"We did everything we could to get as many people off of there and to try to salvage what we could on the rig," Caleb told Kyle. "Whenever it finally sunk, the 11 guys that were missing were the guys from the drill crew. It was very, very hard for me to accept. I wasn't ready to give up. I wanted to go back out there and search some more," he said.
In the months after the explosion, criminal investigations into the incident revealed that BP may not have kept up with multiple design and procedure standards. Their well design had a missing seal that left a gap for gas to escape from, they skipped crucial tests of the well cement lining, and despite various warning signs of an oil leak, rig managers did not evacuate Deepwater Horizon until it was too late.
Still, no one could've imagined the devastation that actually occurred. For months afterward, Caleb struggled to return to normal life. He wanted to be back out on the rig, but knew he wouldn't be able to handle it mentally and emotionally, after what happened.
"I was on a downward spiral, not getting any better every day that I would think about it. I missed the rig, I missed the brotherhood that we had out there," he said.
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Despite the devastation of what Caleb went through, some good did come out of it. After helping in the search and rescue efforts during the disaster, he knew he could handle the pressure of a life or death situation. Caleb is now a firefighter in his hometown of Nacogdoches, Texas, where he continues to save lives.
"I think the Horizon tragedy kinda prepared me for some of the stuff that I'm faced with today," he told Kyle. "You can either run away or you can run and help, and I knew I had that in me to go and help. It gave me the confidence to be able to face the challenges I face today, 'cause when everybody else is running away, we're running in, and that's just something I'm extremely proud to be able to do and try to impact people's lives by helping."
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After experiencing a tragedy like this, it can be easy to give up and walk away. Caleb was able to overcome his fears and continues to exemplify bravery in his work as a firefighter by risking his own life to save others.
He told Kyle he's very grateful for where he is today. "It's been such a blessing to be able to overcome the tragedy that happened and to be in the place that I'm at now."
-- Molly Fosco