Three companies cited in connection with deadly drilling rig explosion

QUINTON, Okla. – Three companies have been cited in connection to a drilling rig explosion that killed five men earlier this year.

In January, five men were killed after a drilling rig exploded outside of Quinton.

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

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 in the last place the men were seen working. Officials say the fire initially started in that area.

The Oklahoma State Medical Examiner’s Office released the victims’ autopsy reports, indicating that all five died of burns and smoke inhalation.

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.

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

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Patterson-UTI Drilling, Crescent Consulting LLC and Skyline Directional Drilling LLC for exposing workers to explosion hazards.

OSHA cited Patterson-UTI and Crescent Consulting for failing to maintain proper controls while drilling a well, failing to inspect slow descent devices and implement emergency response plans.

All three companies were cited for failing to ensure that heat lamps in use were approved for hazardous locations.

They face fines of more than $118,000.

“These employers failed to properly control hazards involved in oil and gas extraction activities, and the result was tragic,” said OSHA Oklahoma City Area Office Director David Bates. “Employers are required to monitor their operations to ensure workplace health and safety procedures are adequate and effective.”

Patterson-UTI Drilling Company LLC released the following statement to News 4 Wednesday saying:

“First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the families and others impacted by the accident. We appreciate the important work OSHA undertakes to help ensure safe and healthy working conditions, and we have fully cooperated in the investigation. We have carefully reviewed the citation, we disagree with its findings, and we have filed a notice of contest with OSHA. We remain committed to providing a safe working environment for our employees and others we work with in the field.”