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Last updated September 2, 2007 11:44 a.m. PT

Report: Piling trapped diver at BP refinery

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- An enormous piling trapped a diver who was killed last month at northwest Washington's
BP Cherry Point refinery, the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office said.

Christopher Primeau, a 35-year-old commercial diver from Wallula, died Aug. 7 during the installation of pile
anchors for an offshore pollution boom, BP and sheriff's officials said.

A diving supervisor told investigators that Primeau, a freelance diver employed by Spokane-based Associated
Underwater Services Inc., was checking for rocks or underwater cables before the pilings were installed.

Primeau's job was to signal when 24-foot-tall steel pilings weighing up to nine tons could be lowered into the water,
when crews could start driving the pilings and when they should stop once they'd been driven in to the appropriate

According to a sheriff's office report, Primeau was at a depth of about 140 feet when he signaled for crews to begin
driving a piling.

Within 13 seconds, the diving supervisor said, Primeau screamed, "All stop! All stop!" The camera and light on his
helmet went dead, and attempts to communicate with him were unsuccessful.

It took a standby diver five minutes to enter the water, and he told surface crews he could not reach Primeau after
following his air hose to the ocean floor, where it went under the piling.

Crews then removed the hammer device used for driving pilings from the water, rigged a cable to the piling, and
lifted it off Primeau, the report said.

Primeau was found unconscious, BP spokesman Michael Abendhoff said. He was immediately brought to the
surface, about 20 minutes after he screamed for crews to stop driving the piling. Paramedics and BP personnel tried
revive him but could not.

The diving supervisor told deputies the hammer appeared to have disconnected from the piling during the operation,
causing the piling to fall over, the report said.

There were no indications of any problems with diving equipment, the report said.

Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo said no evidence of criminal misconduct was found and that his office has closed
its investigation.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the incident, as is BP. Abendhoff said BP hopes
to complete its probe within 30 to 60 days.

Both BP and OSHA officials said it remains too early to say exactly what killed Primeau.


Information from: The Bellingham Herald, 9/3/2007