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The Daily Record: SHELL FAI: OILRIG CREWMEN WERE KILLED BY PATCHED-UP PIPE: “20-minute repair still there after a year, inquiry is told”: “Shell admitted breaching three health and safety regulations and were fined £900,000.”: Tuesday 1 November 2005


20-minute repair still there after a year, inquiry is told


By Charlie Gall


A 20-MINUTE patch-up job on an oilrig pipe was still in place nearly a year later when two oil workers were gassed to death, a court heard yesterday.


A worker said he used rubber and two clips to seal a leak because he thought the corroded pipe was just dripping oily water.


But it was a main gas pipe on Shell's Brent Bravo platform, carrying hazardous and potentially toxic gas, a fatal accident inquiry heard.


Almost a year after the temporary repair, Sean McCue, 22, and Keith Moncrieff, 45, died when they were sent to check the fault in the rig's utility leg.


A broken valve led to 2.5 tons of hydrocarbon vapour escaping, and the pair were quickly overcome.


Maintenance worker Thomas Wotherspoon told the inquiry in Aberdeen that the repair, which he did at the end of 2002, was not meant to last for such a long time.


He said: "I asked what was coming out of the pipe. I was told it was oily water. I was asked to effect a repair quickly, although I didn't understand why there was a need to do it quickly. All I could do was put a clip and rubber there."


Mr Wotherspoon added: "I was down there for a very short period of time and effected the repair in about 20 minutes.


"I regarded it as a temporary repair, and I would have expected itto be reported to the technical authority onshore."


Earlier yesterday, the families of Sean, of Kennoway in Fife, and Keith, of Invergowrie, Dundee, were shown where they perished.


A police video revealed the aftermath of the tragedy with hard hats, tools and breathing masks strewn about the utility leg on the rig, 115 miles north-east of Shetland. In April, Stonehaven Sheriff Patrick Davies said a catalogue of errors caused the men's deaths.


Shell admitted breaching three health and safety regulations and were fined £900,000.


In an unusual move yesterday, the company's lawyer made an opening statement expressing sympathy to the men's families.


Failures Stuart Gale QC said during the court case at Stonehaven it was made clear that Shell "very much regretted" the deaths.


As the inquiry got under way yesterday, he said: "I would wish to convey to the families of Mr Moncrieff and Mr McCue my clients' deepest sympathy to them for the sudden and tragic loss they have suffered.


"That expression of sympathy is made now, as it was at the trial, in the knowledge that certain failures in duty on the part of Shell led to the events which caused the deaths.


"I wish also to emphasise at the outset of this inquiry that Shell will not depart in this inquiry from the rationale which led to the decision to plead guilty last year.


"That involved an acceptance of certain deficiencies at a corporate level."


Mr Gale said the inquiry's task must be to indicate the lessons learned from the tragic events and to set out the steps taken by Shell to minimise a repetition.


The FAI was ordered by Scotland's senior law officer, Lord Advocate Colin Boyd QC, who overturned a decision by the procurator fiscal in Aberdeen not to hold one.


The probe is expected to last three months


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