British Petroleum engineer found guilty of obstructing oil spill investigation
US Coast Guard image released on April 22, 2010 shows fire boat response crews as they battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon April 21, 2010 (AFP)

A drilling engineer for British oil giant BP was found guilty Wednesday of destroying text messages in his smartphone, obstructing the investigation into the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

"Today a jury in New Orleans found that Kurt Mix purposefully obstructed the efforts of law enforcement during the investigation of the largest environmental disaster in US history," acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman in a statement.

The jury found the engineer did "alter, destroy, mutilate and conceal" iPhone text messages with BP's then-drilling engineer manager for the Gulf of Mexico, with the purpose of impairing the data's "integrity and availability for use in an official proceeding," the indictment said.

Raman added that the "prosecution shows the commitment of the Justice Department to holding accountable those who interfere with the administration of justice."

Mix worked on efforts to stop oil flow following the April 20, 2010 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig some 80 kilometers (50 miles) from New Orleans.

The explosion killed 11 workers and spilled oil for 87 days until it was plugged.

The disaster blackened beaches in five states and crippled the region's tourism and fishing industries in a tragedy that riveted the United States.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]