NEW ORLEANS -- Relatives flew over Gulf of Mexico waters Wednesday where 11 oil rig workers died a year ago, residents gathered in prayer vigils onshore and President Obama vowed to hold BP and others accountable for "the painful losses that they've caused."
Even as somber remembrances marked the first anniversary of the worst offshore oil spill in American history, there were reminders that lengthy legal battles lay ahead. BP filed a lawsuit alleging negligence by the maker of the device that failed to stop the spill and the rig owner. Both filed their own claims.
The disaster began on the night of April 20, 2010, when the Deepwater Horizon rig burst into flames and killed the 11 men. The rest of the crew evacuated, but two days later the rig toppled into the Gulf and sank to the sea floor. Over the next 85 days, 206 million gallons of oil -- 19 times more than the Exxon Valdez spilled -- spewed from the well.
Parents, siblings and wives of the workers -- whose bodies were never recovered -- boarded a helicopter Wednesday to see where their loved ones died.
In a statement, Obama paid tribute to those killed in the blast and said that despite significant progress toward mitigating the spill's worst impacts, "the job isn't done."
"We continue to hold BP and other responsible parties fully accountable for the damage they've done and the painful losses that they've caused," he said.
BP said in its lawsuit filed in federal court in New Orleans that Cameron International provided a blowout preventer with a faulty design, alleging that negligence by the manufacturer helped cause the disaster. The lawsuit seeks damages to help BP pay for the tens of billions of dollars in liabilities it has incurred from the disaster.
BP sued rig owner Transocean for at least $40 billion in damages, accusing it of causing last year's deadly blowout. BP says every single safety system and device and well control procedure on the Deepwater Horizon rig failed.
At a candle-lit ceremony in New Orleans' Jackson Square shortly after sunrise, environmentalists and religious leaders joined to remember the perished rig workers and call on the nation to take the steps to prevent another environmental catastrophe.
The solemn ceremonies underscore the delicate healing that is only now taking shape. Oil still occasionally rolls up on beaches in the form of tar balls, and fishermen face an uncertain future.