NEW ORLEANS — Relatives of the 11 men who died aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig are flying over the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, back to the epicenter of the worst offshore oil spill in the nation's history.
Meanwhile, on land, vigils were scheduled in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida to mark the spill.
On the night of April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon, a rig operated by Transocean Ltd., burst into flames as it was drilling a well for BP PLC., killing 11 workers on or near the drilling floor. The rest of the crew evacuated, but two days later the rig toppled into the Gulf and sank to the sea floor. The bodies were never recovered.
Over the next 85 days, 206 million gallons of oil — 19 times more than the Exxon Valdez spilled — spewed from the well. In response, the nation commandeered the largest offshore fleet of vessels since D-Day, and BP spent billions of dollars to clean up the mess, saving itself from collapse.
"I can't believe tomorrow has been one year because it seems like everything just happened," Courtney Kemp, whose husband Roy Wyatt Kemp was killed on the rig, wrote on her Facebook page Tuesday. "I have learned a lot of things through all of this but the most important is to live each day as if it were your last ... what matters is if you truly live."
Transocean invited up to three members of each family to attend the flyover. They are expected to circle the site a few times in a helicopter, though there is no visible marker identifying where their loved ones perished. At the bottom of the sea, 11 stars were imprinted on the well's final cap.
Several families said they didn't want to go on the flyover, and Transocean decided to not allow media on the flight or at a private service later in the day in Houston.