BP Oil Spill: Did Firefighters Help Sink the Deepwater Horizon Rig?

Experts agreed that salt water can affect the balance of a rig but they disagreed whether it would have mattered in the case of the Deepwater Horizon, since the explosion was so severe.

Dr. Benton Baugh, president of the oil engineering firm Radoil , said it is possible that the seals that protect the buoyancy chambers failed, and that the massive amounts of water being used to put out the fire found their way inside.

"I and others have speculated that the access to the buoyancy chambers was compromised, potentially by heat, and the fire boats simply flooded the buoyancy chambers and caused the rig to sink," he told the Center.

Dr. Paul Bommer, a 25 year vet of the oil industry and now a senior lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin, thinks the rig was doomed by the fire, regardless of uncoordinated firefighting attack.

"I do not believe anyone thought they could put the fire out with foam or water – it was too big and too hot," he said. "Without putting the fire out – which was impossible – there was no way to save this vessel."

His belief is that the fire "simply melted away enough of the structure and support systems" on the rig, causing the buoyancy system to fail.

John Solomon and Aaron Mehta are reporters with the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative journalism organization.

Matthew Mosk of ABC News contributed to this report.

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