Drilling rig explodes in Pittsburg County; 5 employees missing

drilling rig fire and explosion

QUINTON — Five workers were missing after a drilling rig explosion west of Quinton Monday morning, creating fires that burned for hours before finally being put out around 8 p.m.

A statement from McAlester-Pittsburg County Emergency Management said Monday night the fire at the wellhead and surrounding areas is out, but fire crews remain at the scene in case the rig reignites. No access is allowed to the rig.

Secondary explosions occurred at the drilling rig in the aftermath of the initial blast, and crews were “doing their best to locate” the missing workers, Pittsburg County Emergency Management Director Kevin Enloe said.

“They have searched the surrounding area and have not found anybody,” he said.

The primary fire on the well-head was still burning Monday afternoon, but all fires had been extinguished by Monday evening, the Pittsburg County Emergency Management Agency announced around 7 p.m.

Seventeen employees were accounted for following the explosion, with the workers walking down the road as emergency responders arrived, Enloe said. Those individuals helped officials determine how many people were unaccounted for.

One worker suffered burns and was treated by medical responders at the scene but initially declined ambulance transport, Enloe said. The worker later was airlifted to St. John Medical Center in Tulsa for further treatment when he began to experience worsening pain, the emergency management agency reported.

Emergency crews kept a 100-foot distance from the drilling rig for safety, Enloe said and didn’t use water or other methods that would spread hazardous materials at the natural gas well site.

Enloe said a remote switch that was in place to shut the well down was rendered inoperable by the explosion, so experts were still working Monday afternoon to close the well.

“There will definitely be operations going on throughout the night,” Enloe said.

The well fire posed no danger to any residents around the site, with the nearest residence about a half-mile away, he said.

Authorities were called to the initial explosion on West Bascum Road in northeastern Pittsburg County at 8:45 a.m., the county emergency management agency reported.

Authorities didn’t know the cause of the explosion, which remained under investigation.

Further updates for media outlets weren’t expected until Tuesday morning.

Enloe said Houston-based Patterson-UTI Drilling Co., the company drilling the well, was contacting the families of those employees who were missing.

“Patterson-UTI confirms that we are responding to a fire at one of our drilling rigs in Pittsburg County, Oklahoma. The cause of the fire is unknown at this time,” the company said in a statement.

“We have received reports that some of our employees and others are unaccounted for at this time. Our top priority is the safety of our employees and any others who may be affected.

“We’ve activated our emergency response systems and are fully cooperating with first responders and authorities on the scene. We will provide more details as they are known.”

The well where the explosion occurred is operated by Red Mountain Energy, the Pittsburg County Emergency Management Agency said. The company is based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Corporation Commission spokesman Matt Skinner said.

Quinton is southeast of Eufaula and north of Wilburton. It is about 110 miles south-southeast of Tulsa.

SOURCE: Tulsa World

Compiled and Published by GIB KNIGHT

Gib Knight is a private oil and gas investor and consultant, providing clients advanced analytics and building innovative visual business intelligence solutions to visualize the results, across a broad spectrum of regulatory filings and production data in Oklahoma and Texas. He is the founder of OklahomaMinerals.com, an online resource designed for mineral owners in Oklahoma.

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