Obama meets with families of oil rig explosion victims

Sonny Long

June 14, 2010 at 1:14 a.m.

YORKTOWN - Arleen Weise wishes President Barack Obama acknowledged sooner the loss of life during the Gulf of Mexico oil rig explosion.

Still, it was an honor to meet the president last week, she said.

Weise's son, 24-year-old Adam Weise, died April 20 in the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Almost two months later, the mother traveled to Washington, D.C., with her mother, Nelda Winslette, and Adam's girlfriend, Cindy Shelton.

Family members of the other victims were also invited to the White House on Thursday. Jason Anderson, of Bay City, also died in the explosion.

Seated at tables in the state dining room, Weise's family was the first to be greeted by the president.

"I wanted to ask him to let drilling resume in the Gulf, but he shook our hands, said a few words and moved on to the next table," Weise said. "We really didn't have time to have a discussion with him."

The president issued a six-month moratorium on offshore oil drilling.

Obama offered family members his condolences and said they were in his and the first lady's thoughts and prayers.

"I also wanted to ask him why he didn't acknowledge the loss of life sooner," Weise said. "With all the things he has going on at least he finally did. It was an honor to meet the president, it really was."

Shelton, the late Adam Weise's girlfriend, wasn't as enamored with Obama.

"I feel like he was doing it all for public relations purposes," Shelton said. "He had been hounded by the media for not saying anything to the families. Fifty-one days later, he decides to finally offer his condolences in person. I guess it was a nice gesture, but it should have been sooner."

Shelton also opposes the president's moratorium on offshore drilling.

"I don't think it is a good idea," she said, "but I see the safety reason for it. It's going to put a hardship on a lot of families because of their jobs."

Accompanying the president were Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, White House Adviser Valerie Jarrett and Carol Browner, assistant to the president for energy and climate change.

Several of the family members, including the Weise contingent, also went to the Capitol and met with members of Congress, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. They discussed in part the Death on the High Seas Act, a 1920 law that limits the money surviving family members of a disaster such as the oil rig explosion can be awarded.

"Her outlook was pretty much the same as the president's on safety issues and the Death on the High Seas Act," Shelton said.

Shelton said her boyfriend worried about the well before his death. He spent three weeks at home before returning to the rig.

"The last time he was home he talked about this well a lot," she said. "He called it the well from hell. It had problems with kickbacks. They couldn't get the mud right, he said. When he went back he called and said it was just as bad as it was when he had left."

After Adam Weise returned to work, he called Shelton twice a day because he felt so uncomfortable with the well, she said. That was unusual for him, she added.

Shelton said despite her doubts about the president, "I think he's going in the right direction on the safety issues."

"I wouldn't wish on anyone what happened to us," Shelton said. "If they can do anything to keep the workers safer, I'm all for it."



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