Jury awards $20 million to families of men killed in rig explosion

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QUINTON, Okla. (KFOR) – Two years after a deadly rig explosion in Quinton, two families have been awarded millions of dollars in a wrongful death lawsuit.

On January 22, 2018, five men were killed after a 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.

“This was the deadliest U.S. drilling accident since the 2010 deep-water horizon rig explosion which killed 11 workers,” said U.S. Chemical Safety Board  interim executive Dr. Kristin Kulinowski.

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, which is where the fire initially started.

The Oklahoma State Medical Examiner’s Office indicated that all five died of burns and smoke inhalation.

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

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.

In a previous lawsuit, attorneys claimed that the explosion was a result of the companies trying to save money and impress investors.

Recently, a jury awarded the families of Josh Ray and Cody Risk $20 million in a wrongful death lawsuit. The $20 million verdict is the largest jury verdict in the history of Pittsburg County.

“Today is a great day for our civil justice system. We asked the jury to send a clear message about this horrible tragedy and they responded with the largest jury verdict in the history of Pittsburg County, and one of the largest jury verdicts ever returned in Oklahoma,” said lead trial lawyer David Rumley.

“Honest, hard-working men were blamed for this catastrophe. This trial has exonerated them and placed the blame on the corporations that caused this tragedy,” said trial lawyer Joe Dunn.

News 4 received this statement from Patterson-UTI Drilling:

It is important to clarify that Patterson-UTI reached mutually agreeable settlements with each of the families last year. Therefore, we were not a defendant in this trial, and we did not have an opportunity to present a defense to the allegations. We continue to remember the five men who lost their lives in this accident, and our deepest sympathies remain with their families.

 

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