01 May 2014, News Wires – Two workers were killed and nine injured Wednesday morning in an apparent blowout as workers changed a wellhead at a producing site in Loving County, Texas, authorities said.
No cause has yet been determined for the explosion reported at about 8:15 am Wednesday in a remote corner of the West Texas county just a few miles from the New Mexico border, county sheriff Billy Hopper told Upstream in an interview.
The sheriff’s office identified the wellsite’s operator as RKI Exploration & Production, an Oklahoma City-headquartered independent that is privately held and backed by private equity entity First Reserve.
Operations are concentrated in the Permian basin in West Texas and South-East New Mexico as well as Eastern Wyoming’s Powder River basin.
No one from the company could be immediately reached for comment after local business hours on Wednesday.
One of the deceased was identified as Amos Ortega, 46, of Artesia, New Mexico, while the name of the second worker from El Paso was being withheld pending notification of next of kin.
None of the remaining injuries, sustained from flying debris, resulted in any hospital admissions, Hopper said. Autopsies on the killed workers are pending in El Paso.
The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had been onsite on Wednesday to investigate the incident, as required in US workplace fatalities, the sheriff said.
The force of the explosion shattered windshields and deployed airbags on vehicles at the site and nearby residents reported feeling the blast at home, according to the Carlsbad Current-Argus, a local news outlet.
Loving County is known as one of the most sparsely populated places in the US and the distance made the response challenging, authorities said.
A site worker had to drive six miles to get a cell phone signal to call 911, a local told the Current-Argus.