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U.S. Chemical Safety Board Launches Full Investigation into Deadly Oklahoma Drilling Rig Explosion


The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has launched a full investigation into the deadly drilling rig explosion that tragically killed 5 workers exactly one week ago in Pittsburg County, Oklahoma.

The CSB is responsible for investigating major chemical accidents in the United States.

While it has no authority to issue new regulations or impose penalties, even industry groups agree that the Board’s findings and recommendations have led to safety improvements at industrial facilities throughout the country.

January 22nd Explosion Tragically Killed 3 Patterson-UTI Employees, 2 Contractors

Emergency crews were called to a drilling site operated by Red Mountain Operating, near Quinton, Oklahoma, shortly before 9:00 a.m. on Monday, January 22, 2018.

Some 22 workers were onsite when the rig exploded, including 17 who were able to escape either uninjured or with only minor injuries.

Five workers were reported missing immediately after the blast. All were presumed dead by Monday evening.

The massive fire set off by the explosion prevented crews from recovering the workers’ remains until Tuesday afternoon.

The deceased have been identified as:

  • Matt Smith, 29, of McAlester, Oklahoma
  • Parker Waldridge, 60, of Crescent, Oklahoma
  • Roger Cunningham, 55, of Seminole, Oklahoma
  • Josh Ray, 35 of Fort Worth, Texas
  • Cody Risk, 26, of Wellington, Colorado

Ray, Risk and Smith were employed by Houston, Texas-based Patterson-UTI Energy, the rig’s owner. Waldridge and Cunningham worked for other contractors.

There were no Red Mountain employees onsite when the rig exploded.

Rig Employees Were Unable to Activate Blowout Preventer

It’s not clear yet what caused the blast.

A preliminary report from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission indicated that an uncontrolled release of natural gas ignited a fire at the rig. Employees were unable to activate the well’s blowout preventer because the blind rams failed to close.

The CSB sent two investigators to the site last Wednesday. It’s announcement of a full probe came just a day later.

“Investigators arrived on site Wednesday morning grand met with the lease holder for the well and the drilling operator,” the Board’s statement said. “CSB investigators will continue to meet with well service providers and the well site consultant company that had employees on site at the time of the incident. Evidence preservation and collection is the initial focus of the investigation.”

Patterson-UTI’s Safety Record Under Scrutiny

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is also investigating the Oklahoma explosion, which stands as the nation’s deadliest drilling disaster since the Deepwater Horizon explosion killed 11 workers in April 2010.

A review of OSHA data recently conducted by Reuters indicates that 13 workers – including the 5 killed in Oklahoma – have died at Patterson-UTI’s drilling sites in just the past decade.

Only Nabors Industries fared worse, with 20 worksite fatalities reported during the same period.

According to the Associated Press, Patterson-UTI was fined nearly $367,000 over the past 10 years for more than 140 safety violations, many of them serious.

At least 20 Patterson-UTI employees died on the job between 2002 and 2007. No other oil and gas company had more than five fatal accidents during that time period.

A U.S. Senate report completed in 2008 found that 12 workers were killed at the company’s Texas drilling sites from 2003 through 2007. The document also described Patterson-UTI as one of the nation’s worst violators of workplace safety laws.

Were You or Someone You Love Injured in a Drilling Rig Explosion or Accident? Call 1-888-603-3636 or Click Here for a Free Consultation with Our Undefeated Oilfield Explosion Lawyers.

Our Undefeated Oilfield Explosion Lawyers continue to investigate the deadly rig explosion in Oklahoma and will post updates as new information is made available.

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If you or a loved one were involved in the Oklahoma rig explosion and would like more information about your available legal options, contact our Undefeated Explosion Lawyers for a free consultation at 1-888-603-3636 or Click Here to send us a confidential email through our “Contact Form.”

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