Drill Site Blast Leaves 2 Dead

Friday, May 2, 2014 @ 02:05 PM gHale

Workers putting in a well head suffered a pressure explosion at a drill site in Orla, Texas early Wednesday morning that left two men dead and nine others injured.

Amos Ortega, 46 of Artesia, was one of the victims and police have not revealed the second victim’s identity other than to say he was from El Paso.

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The nine other workers injured in the accident suffered only minor cuts, lacerations and bruising from shrapnel pushed into the air by the explosion. They underwent exams at the scene, but did not go to the hospital. Loving County Sheriff Deputy Chris Busse said there were up to 15 people on site at the time of the explosion.

The explosion near Orla was the first oil-and-gas-related accident for Loving County this year, Busse said.

An investigation by the Loving Sheriff’s Department is still pending, but law enforcement said that a pressure build-up was to blame.

“Workers for RKI (the company who operated the site) were putting in a well head … and the pressure line built up and there was a pressure explosion,” Busse said. “It’s a sad day in Loving County.”

Loving County Sheriff Billy Hopper said the department began receiving calls of an explosion around 8 a.m.

“They (employees) were able to shut down valves and get the area secured by the time EMS arrived,” Busse said.

RKI Exploration & Production, which has offices in Carlsbad, declined to comment on the incident. RKI’s headquarters are in Oklahoma City.

Hopper said the company has been operating in the county area for three to four years.

Glass and debris were visible around the site and the explosion shattered window shields and deployed the air bags of several vehicles at the scene, Busse said. The Loving County Sheriff’s office reported a large number of calls from residents miles around the site who said they felt the concussion from the explosion.

Busse said RKI, who he identified as the main company at the site, will be conducting an independent investigation. Hopper said Occupational Safety and Health Administration will also be conducting an investigation along with the Texas Railroad Commission.

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