Investigators have finally found a party in interest from the Huntington Beach oil spill at the beginning of October. The L.A. Times reports that working with the U.S. Coast Guard, county officials boarded a ship that they suspect was involved.
The ship in question is a large cargo vessel called the MSC Danit. Chief investigator for L.A. and Orange County Braden Rostad found that the ship happened to be in the area of the leaking pipeline on January 25th and was involved in an anchor dragging incident. The incident set the stage for the oil spill that would occur some nine months later.
Investigators suspect an initial anchor strike displaced part of the pipeline many months before the spill, stripping away its concrete casing and causing it to be more vulnerable to other potential anchor strikes or environmental stressors.
Investigators say that a storm off the coast brought high winds and rough-ish seas, pushing the Danit and its anchor over the pipeline and causing the anchor to strike it. The strike damaged the pipe’s casing. When the pipe was inspected last October, there was no damage. Investigators were able to determine how recent the impact happened by looking at the marine growth on the pipe itself.
The investigation is still ongoing, with county officials and the Coast Guard bringing in the FBI to assist. It’s still being determined if the initial strike caused the spill or if something else hit it at a later date. And while the MSC Danit is the focus, other ships that were in the vicinity in January are being looked at as well. However, the Danit is the only ship to be labeled “party in interest” out of the other ships. This essentially means that the owners of the ship will get a chance to defend themselves.
The party in interest designations provide the owner and operator of the MSC DANIT the opportunity to be represented by counsel, to examine and cross-examine witnesses, and to call witnesses who are relevant to the investigation.