January 22, 2018 – Reuters
HOUSTON – Five workers were missing after a fiery explosion on Monday at an oil and gas drilling site in eastern Oklahoma, officials said.
The fire continued to burn, fed by gas from a well being drilled for Red Mountain Energy by Patterson-UTI Energy Inc (PTEN.O), and preventing a full search of the scene, said Kevin Enloe, director of the Pittsburg County Emergency Management Department.
Fire control specialists have been called to the scene, but were still developing a plan to extinguish the blaze, he said in a broadcast briefing Monday afternoon.
Enloe declined to provide the names or other details about the five missing workers. He said one of the 22 workers at the site when the explosion occurred was treated for injuries and 16 others were uninjured.
The blast occurred at around 9 a.m. (1500 GMT) near Quinton, Oklahoma, about 146 miles (235 km) from Oklahoma City.
Patterson-UTI, a contract driller, said in a statement that some of its employees were missing after the fire. The company said it was cooperating with first responders and authorities on the scene.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which investigates fatal workplace accidents, was closed on Monday because of the federal government shutdown.
Boots & Coots, Halliburton’s well control and prevention service, had been called to put out the fire. Staff from the state’s energy regulator, Oklahoma Corporation Commission, were also on the scene, officials said. The explosion is the latest in a series of accidents at oil and gas fields in the state. A gas explosion occurred at a Trinity Resources well in the same area in February 2017, injuring a worker.
More recently, a 40-year-old Oklahoma man was killed in a backhoe accident this month at an oilfield near Ninnekah. A worker was killed last month when equipment collapsed at a site near Preston, and a 36-year-old man was killed in November when a fitting failed during fracking at a well near Watonga, according to media reports.
Accidents during oil and gas drilling claim about 100 lives a year in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the CDC reported 1,189 workers were killed in the 11 years ended 2013, a period of intensive drilling.
Two-thirds of the fatalities involved transportation or contact with objects or equipment, the CDC found. More than 50 percent involved employees of oilfield service companies.
Reporting by Bryan Sims, additional reporting by Liz Hampton; Editing by Andrew Hay, Tom Brown, Grant McCool