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The National Academy of Engineering and the National Research Council have just released preliminary findings on what caused the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil platform earlier this year, concluding that a series of human failings contributed to the accident.

The “Interim Report on Causes of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig Blowout and Ways to Prevent Such Events“ cites delays in recognizing that hydrocarbons “were flowing into the well and riser” and says operators failed “to take timely and aggressive well-control actions.” Additionally, the panel overseeing the investigation questioned “the adequacy of operating knowledge on the part of key personnel,” which was the subject of an early May report by the Center for Public Integrity.

A separate Center story from July investigated whether a haphazard firefighting effort contributed to the sinking of the rig. At a public hearing in August, several panel members touched on the issues surrounding the firefighting response.

However, when asked on a press call today about firefighting efforts, former Navy Secretary Donald Winter, the panel chair, declined to comment, noting that an ongoing Coast Guard investigation is looking at that aspect of the spill. “We’ve viewed the issues associated with the response as being our purview,” he said, adding that “It would be inappropriate to comment on it at this time.”

A second report by the panel will be released by June 2011, followed by a final published version, which is scheduled to be released by the end of next year.

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