Fallout from Fatal Oil Rig Fire

Monday, June 22, 2015 @ 10:06 AM gHale

An open-flame heater on the floor of a rig may be the cause of the fire that killed three natural gas drillers and seriously injured two others in a December 2014 blaze in Coalgate, OK, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

In June 2013, OSHA cited the company for allowing the use of an open-flame heater.

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Mark Pittman Jr., Gary Keenan and Kelsey Bellah were working for Dan D Drilling Corp. when the fire erupted.

Bellah, 27, and Keenan, 26, died at the scene. Pittman, 26, died from his burns 16 days later in the hospital. Two co-workers suffered serious injuries. One sustained extensive burns to his hands and arms caused by his attempt to assist an injured colleague. He spent a brief time in the hospital. The second man also suffered extensive burns and remained hospitalized until early March.

Proposed penalties total $221,200 and OSHA placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. Dan D Drilling, which provides drilling services to the petroleum industry, employs about 270 workers.

“The heater probably started the fire. The company knew this was hazardous, but chose to ignore the hazard,” said David Bates, OSHA’s area director in Oklahoma City.

Based in Lamont, Dan D Drilling received two willful, seven serious and one repeated OSHA violation. The willful violations were for using an open-flame heater on the rig floor that exposed six workers to fire hazards and for failing to provide and ensure employees were wearing flame-resistant clothing.

The seven serious violations include failing to provide a quick drenching shower for employees who work with corrosive materials; electrical equipment approved for hazardous locations; and training workers on the chemical and physical hazards of new chemicals at the work site.

The repeated violation was for failing to provide an emergency egress from the rig derrick platform. The company had a similar violation in March 2013 at a drilling site in Tonkawa.