The owner of the rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico nearly one year ago is quietly arranging to fly relatives of the 11 men who died out to the disaster site on the anniversary next month.
Four families told The Associated Press they've been notified in telephone calls and emails about Transocean's plans for a morning flyover at sea and a private evening memorial service on land.
Shelley Anderson, whose husband was killed, said the helicopter will circle the site a few times and return to shore. Space is being limited to three people per family.
The families would then be flown from Louisiana to Houston for the service. A Transocean spokesman has not commented on the flyover.
Initial plans called for a boat ride to the well site and a service at sea, Anderson said. That plan was scrapped in favor of a flyover because of logistical issues, she said.
"I'm quite excited about it," said Arleen Weise, whose son was killed on the rig. "I know we won't be able to see anything because the rig is at the bottom of the ocean, but at least I will know what he went through going to work."
News of the flyover comes as several families continue to press legal claims against the companies involved in the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
The AP reported in November that Transocean had reached long-term settlements with three families and set up a charitable fund that distributed $130,000 to all the families in July. Weise, who reached one of those three settlements, wouldn't disclose the amount, citing a confidentiality agreement she signed. A fourth settlement was reached in January, according to court records. Transocean and lawyers for the families have refused to disclose the amounts of the settlements.
The Gulf Coast Claims Facility, which has been handling oil spill victims' claims on behalf of BP, is in discussions with two families about a financial settlement, but no deal has been reached yet.
Three other families said that as of Wednesday they still had not received a settlement offer from Transocean, nor have any figures been discussed. Transocean employed nine of the 11 workers who were killed. M-I Swaco employed the other two. BP owned the well that blew out and was leasing the rig from Transocean.
A BP spokeswoman said the oil giant has not directly settled with any of the families. A spokeswoman for M-I Swaco's parent company, oil field services firm Schlumberger, declined to comment.
The Deepwater Horizon explosion last April 20 led to the release of more than 200 million gallons of oil from BP's well a mile beneath the sea, according to government estimates that BP disputes.