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5 Missing After Natural Gas Drilling Rig Explodes in Eastern Oklahoma


Five workers were reported missing today, after a violent explosion destroyed a natural gas drilling rig in eastern Oklahoma’s Pittsburg County.

The blast was reported around 8:45 a.m., just west of Quinton and about 100 miles southeast of Tulsa, at an oil and gas drilling site operated by Oklahoma City-based Red Mountain Operating.

Houston-Based Patterson-UTI Energy Confirms 3 Employees Among The Missing

At least two dozen people were working at the site when the explosion occurred, including 17 who were pulled from the rig to safety.

One person was flown to an area hospital. Other injuries are said to be minor.

Houston, Texas-based drilling contractor and owner of the rig, Patterson-UTI Energy, confirmed that three of its employees were among the missing.

“We have received reports that some of our employees and others are unaccounted for at this time,” the company said in a statement. “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 identities of the missing workers have not been released.

Fires and Additional Explosions Hampered Response

The fiery explosion sent thick plumes of black smoke and flame 50 feet into the air. Heat from the rig fire eventually caused the derrick to collapse, spreading flames to the surrounding area.

The resulting fires reportedly killed cattle in a nearby pasture.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol, the Pittsburg County Sheriff’s Office and various other emergency agencies responded to the scene. However, additional explosions at the site hampered their efforts.

“We started an initial attack on the well, but we had to be pulled back because of several secondary explosions, and then just set up containment until the well control folks got on scene,” Pittsburg County Emergency Manager, Kevin Enloe, said during a news conference this afternoon.

Rig Fire Continues to Hinder Search for Missing Workers

Crews spent much of the day searching nearby wooded areas for survivors.

The rig continued to burn into Monday night, making it impossible for rescue crews to search for the missing among the wreckage.

It’s not yet known what caused the explosion.  Investigators from the U.S.  Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have been called to the scene and are interviewing employees.

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