We know that the people working there were well aware of how they were being put in harms way. The equipment manager on the rig put his affairs in order before returning to the drill site, and the reports are that he died at his post trying in vain to stop the blowout. The safety equipment simply didn't work, and his supervisors knew that it would not.
Once the inadequate well casing gave way, the extreme pressure simply drove the drilling mud out of the drill pipe. Hydraulic valves intended to shear the well pipe at the sea floor and seal it refused to respond to commands from the drilling control station. The equipment was jury rigged, poorly designed and known to not be in functioning condition. Then came massive amounts of high pressure methane pouring onto the drilling deck. This was in turn sucked into the air intakes of the huge diesel engines that drove the drilling operation. The multi-thousand horsepower engines began to run at speeds several times what they are designed to handle after the computer actuated throttles become useless as the air intakes became fuel intakes. The white hot steel that erupted from the explosion of these engines sealed the fate of the men put in this death trap. Men who were trying to run from the well head were overtaken and cut to pieces in the initial blast followed by a steel melting inferno.
The knee jerk reaction is to blame the Obama Administration for not doing more, for not putting these real rat-bastards into prison. The truth is that BP has more resources than the Justice Department, it's either take the pittance they offer, the sacrificial lambs they put up, or get nothing. Republican appointed judges are not likely to rule in the government's (or rather the people's) favor after years and years of litigation. BP is simply throwing a small bone to end the matter, and the government as it stands has little choice but to take it.
It seems likely that the settlement has come out now only because Obama won the election, a Romney win would have almost certainly meant an apology to BP for putting them to so much trouble. If that seems far fetched, refer back to the Republican lawmakers who got down on their knees and satisfied BP in every way possible after Obama slighted them so badly. He showed incredibly bad taste to suggest even while oil was still gushing into the Gulf that BP might be in some part to blame for what happened.
Yeah, Obama is no Harry Truman, but he's definitely no Mitt Romney.