MOBILE, Alabama – A Saraland man who tried to rescue a drowning child in rough Gulf of Mexico waters near Orange Beach became severely ill after swallowing oil and chemical dispersant, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in Mobile.
BP spokesman Justin Saia said he has not seen the lawsuit and could not comment on it.
It is one of scores of lawsuits that have been filed against BP since the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, but one of just a handful that alleged direct physical injury.
It’s “unlike any we’ve seen since we’ve been getting these cases,” said Parker Miller, a lawyer with Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles.
Daniel Hudley, 43, was driving along the beach July 2 with his wife when they decided to get out and look at the ocean. Miller said that Hudley spotted a young girl being pulled away from the shore and, despite being out of work following back surgery, he charged into the water.
“He risked quite a bit going into the water to save this child,” Miller said.
The girl, Kennedy Halechko, 2, of Helena, died later at Baptist Hospital in Pensacola. Also, a friend of the girl’s family, Kembra Gordon, 47, of Pelham, drowned trying to help the girl, and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Hudley previously had worked at First Community Bank, but resigned following his back surgery, Miller said.
Hudley was treated at the hospital the day of the drowning and continues to suffer from severe intestinal pain, nosebleeds, chronic headaches and other ailments, according to Miller.
“He ingested quite a bit of oil and, we believe a great deal of dispersant,” he said. “He’s in pretty bad shape. … He did not have this pain. He did not have these issues before.”
Saia on Thursday repeated BP’s contention that it never used dispersant in the inshore areas of Alabama and Mississippi. Hudley’s lawyers insisted otherwise.
“I think we would respectfully disagree with what BP has said with respect to the use of dispersant,” said Rhon Jones, head of the firm’s environmental litigation section. “We feel comfortable we will be able to prove that in a court of law.”
The lawsuit, which also names BP’s business partners in the Deepwater Horizon rig, contends that Hudley suffers from “potentially life threatening” illnesses.
“He has been told he is a guinea pig,” Miller said. “No one knows how bad this will be.”
Baldwin County Coroner Rod Steade said he examined the body of Gordon — who was in the same spot as the girl — and found no sign that she had come into contact with oil. “No way, Jose,” he said.