Five people are missing after a gas well owned by Red Mountain Energy of Oklahoma City exploded in eastern Oklahoma’s Pittsburg County around 8:45 a.m. this morning. The platform, erected just three weeks ago, was being operated by Houston-based sub-contractor Patterson-UTI Energy at the time of the blast.
Earlier today, Patterson confirmed to KJRH.com that it was responding to a fire at the rig located near Quinton, about 100 miles southeast of Tulsa. “We have received reports that some of our employees and others are unaccounted for at this time,” the statement read in part. At least three of the missing are Patterson employees.
Twenty-two workers were aboard the platform when the explosion occurred. First responders found 17 of them this morning, but five members of the crew were still unaccounted for this afternoon. One person who sustained burn injuries was treated at the site and then flown to a hospital in Tulsa for treatment.
The force of the blast knocked the derrick of the top of the rig and sent flames shooting 50 feet into the air. The intense heat of the fire and subsequent explosions pushed emergency crews back from the scene.
“Everything that is on location is on fire,” Pittsburg County Emergency Management Director Kevin Enloe said at a news conference this morning. Containment crews were not using water to suppress the fire so as not to spread contaminants that were on location, he said. The fire was contained by 4 p.m.
Crews will work into the night to locate the missing crewmembers.
“No family should have to experience the pain and loss that explosions can cause,” said Fred Pritzker, an explosion attorney whose firm, Pritzker Hageman, has secured multimillion-dollar settlements for clients from national corporations doing business in all 50 states. It could take months for officials to determine what happened, he said. State regulatory and environmental officials will be working with investigators from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on an investigation of the explosion.