"It was just instantly black," Leining said.Related Articles
When the smoke cleared, he said he could hear his cell phone ringing in his shirt pocket — later he learned it was his panicked wife, another BP employee, calling — but he couldn't reach his pocket.
"I saw that fire and I felt that heat and I started getting motivated," Crow said. "I was just trying to get away from the fire."
Workers were running in all directions. Bleeding from the head, Crow said he hobbled and stumbled to a nearby road, where another worker drove him to safety in the back of his pickup truck.
His thoughts went right to his co-workers. "Where's Morris? Where's Larry? Where's Andy?"
Leining, still in the rubble, began calling for help on his radio, the microphone of which was still attached to his collar.
"This is Dave Leining," he recalled saying over the loud roar of the nearby fire. "We're in Morris King's office. We're trapped in this trailer."
Seconds later a voice responded, "You can't be. There ain't nothing left."
Leining said back, "Well that's where we are."
Crow said he is at times angry that the trailer was so close to the isom unit and felt that its location was unsafe. Although he never complained about it, he felt uneasy going to work there.
"It was right close to this other unit," he said. "They (BP officials) said there just wasn't enough space."
Leining declined to comment when asked if he also felt unsafe in the trailer. But he and Crow both said they were surprised to later learn that the blast occurred during the start-up of the isom unit. Leining, a 35-year BP employee, said he did not remember another time when workers were not cleared from the site when a startup began.
"That's not normal operating procedure to do that during the daytime," he said.
BP has refused to comment on that issue, as well as on the location of the trailer. The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, which is investigating the accident, has said both issues are major areas of their inquiry.
It will be at least six months before either Crow or Leining will be able to walk again. Meanwhile, both said they will spend countless hours wondering why they survived.
"I felt myself disappear," Leining said. "I was seconds away from being killed. Where I was, I should have been killed. But I've been given a second chance."
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- BP In California: "callous and intentional noncompliance purely for economic reasons", March 24, 2005
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- At Least 14 Dead, Hundreds Injured In Huge Refinery Explosion, March 23, 2005