Authorities Investigating Oklahoma Rig Explosion, Deadliest U.S. Drilling Accident In Years
Posted on Saturday, January 26th, 2019 at 9:11 am
In southeastern Oklahoma about 100 miles , a natural gas drilling rig exploded and caught fire. This deadly explosion resulted in the death of five of its workers and injury of 16 others. Tragically, it’s one of the country’s deadliest onshore drilling accident in years. Patterson-UTI Energy, of Houston, owns and operates the drilling rig, which exploded and caught fire about 8:45 a.m on Monday, January 25.
Oklahoma Law Change Regarding Worker’s Compensation and Liability
A day after the explosion, Oklahoma’s Supreme Court struck down a portion of the state’s workers compensation law, ruling 8-0 that oil and gas companies can be sued when workers are injured or killed. Oklahoma law holds operators responsible for well site safety, not contract drillers or oil-field service companies.
An Uncontrolled Gas Release Is Believed To Have Caused The Explosion
Although the incident is under investigation, a preliminary report indicates that it may have been due to an uncontrolled gas release. One of the commissioned investigators found evidence to support that the fire that ultimately engulfed the rig was fueled by the uncontrolled gas release. One of the rig workers tried to turn on a device that can shut off the well but he was not able to activate it.
A black plume of smoke that came from the fire blacked out the visibility of the area for miles. The fire was so intense that it actually made it difficult for the emergency crews who had to hold back for hours. In addition to the five who were killed, there were several workers who were injured. One of those had to be taken to the hospital by helicopter. According to the county sheriff, these workers ran after hearing a loud boom and then seeing a raging fire break out.
The five men who died as a consequence of this accident ranged in age of 26 years old to 60 years old. They were all in a control room that was near the drilling platform. The incident is considered a real tragedy and the company was reported as saying that they are absolutely devastated by it.
Employees And Company Executives Deeply Saddened
This tragedy is the most deadly of its kind in Oklahoma’s history, and the employees there say that they are deeply saddened by the death of their colleagues. The company’s president and CEO have pledged that the company will do an extensive investigation to determine the cause of the accident and what can be done to prevent it from happening again. They said that employee safety, as well as the safety of partners, are of utmost importance.
Patterson-UTI Has One Of The Worst Safety Records In Drilling History
Despite the executive’s exertion that they are committed to a substantial investigation, the company itself is plagued by the worst safety record in the history of drilling. This is according to data shown by the Occupational Safety And Health Administration. In recent years a subcommittee of the US Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions showed that 12 deaths have occurred in just the state of Texas alone with this company. OSHA has records on file showing a number of violations at some of the company’s drilling sites in Oklahoma.
Drilling Jobs Are Dangerous
In general, oil and gas drilling is a dangerous profession. In just the state of Oklahoma, there have been at least 60 workers in five years who have died while working at oil and gas drilling sites. This statistic is according to information provided by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rising death toll associated with this work spurred a voluntary Statewide shutdown. During the shutdown, all drilling activity came to a halt. The purpose was to give crews the opportunity to review safety procedures and standards. Hopefully this tragedy will lead to improved work environments and more stringent safety regulations.
If you or a loved one is a victim of an explosion, let Williams Kherkher help you out. We have been handling major plant explosion victims since 1983. Learn your rights. Call for a free confidential consultation at (713) 230-2200.