Besieged BP chief Tony Hayward yesterday declared his "deep sorrow" over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill after US Congressman accused his company of "astonishing complacency" and of having a "cavalier attitude to risk".
Speaking before the House energy and commerce sub-committee, a jaded-looking Hayward apologised for the accident and said he was "personally devastated" by the loss of life on the Deepwater Horizon rig on 20 April.
"I am absolutely devastated by the incident and I feel great sorrow," he said, a day after pledging £13.5bn to a compensation fund to make amends for the Gulf of Mexico spill.
"This tragedy should never have happened and I am deeply sorry that it did."
Britain's largest firm was condemned by Senators for increasing the risk of a "catastrophic blowout" by cutting "corner after corner".
Hayward was singled out for failing to ignore warning signs before the fatal rig explosion, which left 11 people dead and hundreds of thousands of barrels of oils spewing into the Gulf.
California Democrat Henry Waxman said: "There is not a single email or document that shows that you paid even the slightest attention to the dangers at this well.
"There is a complete contradiction between BP's words and deeds. You were brought in to make safety the top priority of BP, but under your leadership, BP has taken the most extreme risks."
Bart Stupak, from Michigan, added that, while Mr Hayward could take "a golden parachute back to England, we in America are left to recover for years from the disaster".
Meanwhile, Betty Sutton, a Democrat from Ohio, said: "Like many Americans, I feel physically sick when I see all this oil gushing into the gulf."
Diane Wilson, a shrimper from Texas mounting a lone protest, began heckling when Hayward spoke, branding him a criminal. Her hands smeared with oil, it took Capitol Hill police several minutes to escort her from the committee room.
Hayward said: "I understand how serious the situation is, I am promising you that we will make this right."
Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday spoke out in defence of BP.
"This is an important multinational company," he said. "It is important to the UK and it is also important, I would argue, to the US."
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