Gulf oil spill: Remembering Deepwater Horizon's dead

Fort Worth Star-TelegramMay 21, 2010 

FORT WORTH — Jason Anderson was just a few hours away from heading to a new job.

The Texas father of two had packed up his locker – making sure to take all of his family photos – and would have been on the first helicopter off the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig the morning of April 21, on his way to being the senior toolpusher on the Discovery Spirit.

But the helicopter never came.

During Anderson’s last shift on the Deepwater Horizon, a well blew out, exploding and killing 11 workers, including Anderson, 35. National attention for the past month has focused on stemming the continuing flow of oil, and trying to prevent massive ecological damage, in what has become one of the country’s biggest environmental disasters.

Most of the national attention since the April 20 explosion has been focused on the looming ecological disaster from the resulting oil spill. But for 11 families – including two from Texas – the tragedy is about the loss of their loved ones.

Billy Anderson grieves the loss of his son, Jason, who he said was a devoted husband and father, a former high school football player, a man he said was “as good as gold.”

“It’s real hard to talk about,” he said. “He was everything a father would hope, pray and want his son to be.

“He was on his watch (April 20), doing what he was supposed to be doing to save his rig and that crew,” Billy Anderson said. “(The 11) were all doing their jobs that day and they saved 115 other lives.”

Today,sat Jason Anderson’s family will remember him in a memorial service, at the same Bay City church where he and his wife were married nearly eight years ago.

On May 25, Transocean, the company that owned the rig, will hold a memorial service in Jackson, Miss. for the 11 crew members killed in the explosion.

The other Texas victim was Adam Weise, a 24-year-old toolhand on the rig. also from Texas, is among those who will be remembered. His grandmother said she realizes cleanup is a priority, but she fears that her grandson’s sacrifice – of his life – is being lost in the shuffle.

“There has not been much said about the 11,” said Nelda WinsletteÖ of Yorktown, who helped raise Weise. “They did give their all.

“I think they were trying to prevent this from happening and they were not able to,” she said. “Those 11 are forgotten.”

Jason Anderson

Anderson, born in Freeport, grew up to be a middle linebacker for his high school football team, said Billy Anderson of Palacios.

After graduating from Tidehaven High School in 1994, and attending Wharton County Junior College, he went into the oil field business starting as a paint chipper and quickly moving up the ranks.

By July 2002, he married “his soul mate,” Shelley at the First Baptist Church in Bay City before a crowd of 1,000.

In recent years, they lived in Midfield, a community of less than 200 people about 16 miles outside Bay City, with their two children – daughter Lacy, 5, and son Ryver, 1.

Anderson enjoyed hunting, golfing and travelling. His love of travel was so great that his wife learned to make sure their travel camper was always well stocked with provisions.

“With Jason, he might walk in the door and tell Shelley, ‘Let’s get in the travel trailer and go,’ ” said the Rev. Clyde Grier,Ö who will perform Anderson’s memorial today.sat “There was a spontaneity to him that made life exciting.”

Family and friends say he’d go the extra mile for anyone, always helping out anyone in need.

“He always read an extra story, he always snuggled a little longer,” according to his obituary. “Whatever it took, he would do it. ... He never, ever ended a phone call without saying I love you. He never got on the plane for work without an extra hug.”

Anderson worked on several rigs, including the Cajun Express, which he helped guide over from Singapore, and the Deepwater Horizon, which he helped bring over from Korea, where it was built, according to the obituary.

Greg Williams met Anderson in 2001, when they both worked on the Deepwater Horizon, and eventually became good friends.

“He was a man’s man and always listened when I had issues or when people had honest problems that needed support,” said Williams, a project specialist with Transocean.

Anderson eventually wanted to become a “company man” and someday have his own consulting company. He and Williams often talked about the possibility of consulting.

“He called me in September of last year and wanted me to come and take his place as he was going to teach well control in headquarters,” Williams said. “I told him that he would be great at that and I would be happy to take his place on the rig. Some things are just not meant to be.”

On April 20, Anderson emptied his locker on the Deepwater Horizon, preparing for his new job. In his last phone call to his wife, he talked about being glad to see his “rig brothers” one last time and how glad he was “to fit all the photo magnets of his family from his locker into his extra large suitcase he had brought just for the move,” the obituary said.

When family members learned of the April 20 explosion, they held out hope that Jason was safe.

They learned he was missing, then “someone from the rig called and said a couple of minutes before the explosion, he had seen Jason on the drilling floor near the drill head,” Grier said. “He was basically on ground zero.”

Family and friends say they know one thing for sure: Jason did everything he could to stop the explosion.

“One man who knew Jason said, ‘I’ll guarantee you if there was anybody trying to stop it, so someone else’s life would be saved, it would be Jason,’” Grier said.

“It makes so sense that he’s gone,” Billy Anderson said. “I don’t know what we are going to do without him.”

Adam Weise

Born in Cuero, Adam Weise was the youngest of four children.

Growing up with a single mother, he learned to hunt and fish from his late grandfather, who he called Pa Pa, Winslette said.

By high school, he had become a star football player, known as one of the “fabulous five,” in Yorktown, a community of about 2,000 people about 40 miles southeast of Victoria..

He was known around town as a classical prankster.

One time in high school, he and some friends took an air horn and hid in bushes near the golf course. “When two guys got up to hit the ball, they blew the air horn,” Winslette said. Another time, Weise stopped the police chief “and told him that if he had to wear his seatbelt, then (the police chief) did too,” Winslette said.

But there was one thing he didn’t like at all – spiders.

Winslette said she would sometimes play jokes on her grandson, such as the time she put a plastic spider at the foot of his bed. When he found it, “he threw off the covers and knocked the lamp over,” Winslette said with a laugh. “He got out of there.”

Yorktown High School Principal Trey AlexanderÖ has described Weise to reporters as “the kind of kid you wished your son would grow up to be like.”

After graduating in 2005, Weise worked different jobs, but finally decided he would make the best money working on an oil rig.

He got hired on Deepwater Horizon, driving about 10 hours to Louisiana for each shift. During his breaks from work, he hunted deer, fished from his boat and spent time with his girlfriend.

But he never stopped with the pranks.

“He had a train horn on his truck and he loved to blow that,” Winslette said with a laugh. “You could hear it all over town when it blew. People knew it was Adam. He was going to put it on his boat. He thought it would be cool to blow a train horn on the water.”

A note posted on the Internet said that Weise helped keep a new, struggling Yorktown taxidermy shop in business, bringing in two or three “critters” many times before going back to work another shift on the rig. He apparently was “always apologizing he couldn’t bring more,” according to the post by txnduckhntr. The owner of the store has said if it wasn’t for Weise “bringing in all those critters, he wouldn’t have made it.”

After Weise’s family learned about the April 20 explosion, they didn’t know if Adam was even on the rig at the time. They later were told he was among the missing but held out hope that he would be found.

When the Coast Guard called off the search for survivors, they were heartbroken, and the sad reality set in.

“I don’t remember when we actually found out he was one of the ones in the pump room when the explosion happened,” Winslette said. “They said they believed they did not suffer, that it was almost instant.

“That’s comforting.”

THE VICTIMS

Eleven crew members died during the April 20 explosion; 115 were rescued.

Jason Anderson, 35, toolpusher, of Midfield, Texas. He and his wife Shelley have two children.

Dale Burkeen, 37, a crane operator from outside Philadelphia. He and wife, Rhonda, have two children.

Donald Clark, 49, assistant driller, of Newellton, La. He and his wife, Sheila, have four children.

Stephen Curtis, 39, assistant driller, of Georgetown, La. He and his wife Nancy have two children.

Gordon Jones, 28, mud engineer, of near Baton Rouge, La. He left behind a pregnant wife, Michelle, and a son.

Roy Wyatt Kemp, 27, assistant driller, of Jonesville, La. He and his wife, Tracy, have two daughters

Karl Kleppinger, 38, floorhand, of Natchez, Miss. He left behind his wife, Tracy, and a 17-year-old son. Dewey Revette, 48, driller, of State Line, Miss. He and his wife, Sherri, have two children.

Shane Roshto, 22, roustabout, of Franklin County, Miss. He left behind his wife, Natalie.

Adam Weise, 24, floorhand, of Yorktown, Texas. He was not married.

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