Eva vs. Goliath

Eva Rowe was a wild child from a mobile home in the Louisiana woods until March 23, 2005, when her parents were killed in a refinery explosion in Texas City. Then she became a wild child with a fancy house in Beaumont and a dogged crusader who forced BP to own up to the truth about what happened that day.
Photograph by Jeff Wilson

John Browne of Madingley, the once hailed and now semi-disgraced former chief of BP, could have saved himself a lot of trouble if he had bothered to educate himself in the folkways of southeast Texas and neighboring Louisiana before purchasing the refinery that exploded to such devastating effect on March 23, 2005. His resignation this past May occurred after a British tabloid threatened to reveal details of some possible business improprieties committed on behalf of the man who was then Lord Browne’s lover. But the real scandal was that 15 people died and 170 were injured in the explosion at his Texas City plant, allegedly the result of major company-mandated budget cuts that turned the refinery into a death trap. This fact might have been lost in all the hoo-ha of outing a closeted gay CEO, but there are at least two people on this side of the Atlantic who want to make sure Lord Browne never gets a good night’s sleep, unless it is eternal: Eva Rowe, who hails from Hornbeck, Louisiana—population 435, just across the Texas state line—and her Beaumont attorney, Brent “Coondog” Coon. Any Texan who saw these two coming would probably have known to get out of the way, and quickly, but Lord Browne was not from these parts.

Eva’s parents, James and Linda Rowe, were two of the fifteen people killed in the explosion at the Texas City BP plant. While other families took generous settlements and returned to their lives, 22-year-old Eva, with more than a little help and encouragement from her attorney, refused to settle her case until November of last year,

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