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Initial report: ‘Uncontrolled gas release’ led to deadly drilling rig explosion

QUINTON, Okla. – After recovering the bodies of five workers who were missing after a drilling rig explosion in Pittsburg County, officials are now turning their attention to how this happened.

Around 9 a.m. Monday, emergency crews were called to an explosion at a well site about four miles southwest of Quinton.

Authorities say there were 22 workers on the well site, which was being drilled by Houston-based Patterson-UTI Energy.

A total of 17 workers were able to escape the explosion and ensuing fire.

Oil rig explosion in Quinton. (Photo Courtesy: Zayne Erickson)

One person was flown by helicopter to a Tulsa hospital with burn injuries, but five others couldn’t be found.

On Tuesday morning, officials identified the victims as 35-year-old Josh Ray, 29-year-old Matthew Smith, 26-year-old Cody Risk, 60-year-old Parker Waldridge and 55-year-old Roger Cunningham.

(Top left to right) Josh Ray, Matthew Smith, Cody Risk, (Bottom left to right) Parker Waldridge, and Roger Cunningham.

Officials with the Pittsburg County Sheriff’s Office say that the remains of all five workers were found around 2 p.m. on Tuesday. Investigators say the bodies were found in the last place where the men were working. Officials say the fire initially started in that area, but crews were not able to reach that part of the scene until Tuesday.

The remains will be taken to the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner’s Office for official identification.

Now, investigators are looking into how something like this could happen.

An initial report released by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission claims that there was an uncontrolled release of gas that caught fire. It also states that an employee attempted to shut down the well, but could not.

The OCC also recommended that soil samples be collected to determine the extent of the pollution from the explosion.